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The Importance of Being Geek

Sorry to be so late this morning. I'm still recovering from Dane's company's holiday office party and a post-party party,* and well... I like to go over the previous posts to see if there's anything needing a response. This needs to be repeated: y'all are a wonderful community--intelligent, engaging, and fun.** Thanks for making me feel so at home. [pause] I mean 'at home' in a good way, of course. Be warned. I'm still drinking my morning coffee. (Tea is for snuggling up with later in the day, see.***) Anyway, today I wanted to chat about something less weighty. Let's start, shall we?

Hi. My name is Stina, and I'm a habitual pen and paper RPG gamer. Specifically, Dungeons and Dragons. I was hooked [cough] I mean... I started playing a very long time ago. I ran a D&D group (as the DM) for sixteen years. (Nine years with a four year break and then seven years. Consecutively and with the same set of players.) I've said this before but running a campaign for that long taught me a great deal about writing, but role-playing has also taught me a great deal about gender culture and life in general. That isn't shocking information in this crowd, I'm thinking. However, I remember being asked repeatedly (back in the day) why I would spend so much of my time at an imaginary activity? Me, I see pen and paper role-playing, like reading, as an important means of experience expansion.**** The social sciences have employed role-playing as a tool for a very long time.

Regarding writing, RPGs taught me a great deal about story pacing, characters, and dialog. When you have immediate feedback from players, it's easy to see when you're boring them. They start chatting with one another. They text their friends. You can see by their expressions whether or not you've got their attention. I think it's a good thing for all writers to experience. RPGs are a great place to experiment with characters too. Paul's question from yesterday about how much of an anti-hero can we get away with before you lose your audience? You can get a pretty good idea from an RPG group. Mind you, the test audience will have a bias, but it does help. As for dialog, writers need to be observant people. Listening to how real people speak is the best way to learn about dialog. If you get a chance to observe a group that really gets into the role-playing aspects of the game, I highly recommend it. You can catch non-verbal cues between their actual personality and the one they've assumed. You can do this with theater and film too, but it's far better if you actually know the person. I tend to watch poker players for similar reasons. It's fascinating.

RPGs were vital in teaching me life lessons too. Like one of the greeting cards currently tacked to my office wall says: Before you criticize someone you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away, and you have their shoes.

Er...

At the risk of sounding like a Monty Python old person (cue the shoebox in the middle of the road quotes now) -- when I started playing D&D there weren't many women who played RPGs, let alone DM'd. I had to be twice as tough on my players as male DMs were in order to get respect from male players. (When I think about it, this is why I was so damned rough on Liam. It's how I was trained to tell stories.) Once I got their attention, I learned right away that I had to portray convincing male characters. This came with it's own set of deeper issues that I'm likely to get into here, but it did have the advantage of teaching me a lot of finer points regarding the cultural differences between white straight males and white straight females. People respond to you differently when you present yourself as male versus female. Beyond the obvious reasons there are a million subtle things I can't even begin to describe. While we have many things in common, Male is a very different head space than female. One isn't better than the other. It's just different. Role-playing male NPCs brought all sorts amazing new insights when female players finally joined the group. To this day, I feel my relationship with my husband is a lot smoother because I have a certain understanding about the male experience. He likes to say that I've earned a "man badge." (I wish men could earn a "woman badge." I think it'd be an eye-opening experience.) Interesting thing? I started actually playing (instead of running) a D&D group and one of the male players who knows me from my DMing days has a hell of a time remembering that the character I'm playing is male. I find that confusing since he definitely didn't have that trouble when I was wearing my DM hat. There have been times when I've become frustrated with his unspoken assumptions regarding my character's competency--something he'd have never done when I was a DM.

Lastly, I mentioned in one of my replies on an earlier post that I'm a basically shy person. Again, most writers are introverts. You kind of have to be on a certain level. Writing is a solitary profession. You probably won't believe this but I used to be so frightened of strangers that I found it difficult to call a shop and ask for their hours of operation. Answering the phone was scary. (I was bullied as a kid, but a lot of kids are.) As a result, I had an image of myself as a cowardly and weak person. D&D totally changed that. My first DM emphasized that in RPGs you could be whatever hero-type you wanted to be. So, my first character was a fighter-mage.***** Over the course of that game I came to discover that courage wasn't about not being afraid. Courage was about being afraid but doing what you had to anyway. It was a huge lesson for me--life-changing, in fact, and if there's one thing I'd thank Gary Gygax and company for, it's that.

I bet I'm not the only one.

----------------------------

* Too much whiskey was consumed. I won't say by whom. Ahem.

** No shit. I know. This is Charlie's blog, and 'like attracts like' as they say.

*** I love tea. I've an enormous collection of tea, vintage tea cups, tea spoons, and a number of tea pots.

**** I'm making a distinction between pen and paper RPGs and computer RPGs here because in pen and paper RPGs you have actual other people present. Computer games are just as fun and valuable but for other reasons.

***** I've played nothing but fighter classes ever since. Paladins are my favorite at the moment. Before that it was Rangers.

140 Comments

1:

So, what do you think about MMORPGs? Aren't they the same thing?

I started playing D&D in the early seventies. I was like 13 and lived in Dallas and subscribed to a magazine called Wargamer's Digest, published in Wisconsin. Mostly they had historical accounts of the tactics and strategy of battles, or pictues of model tanks for tabletop wargames. But they started running a series of articles recounting these games being played next door by Gary Gygax and friends using the appendix to the Chainmail rules for medieval wargames, and it was just the strangest thing. So I went and bought Chainmail at Heritage models, which advertised in WD sometimes and was in Dallas. At that time it was in the warehouse district, just about the size of a closet, with a bunch of SPI games and rule sets on racks. Later they moved into a place called European Crossroads and played opera all the time in the showroom and had weekend wargames on sheets of plywood in the space under the fake clock tower.

Well, I started playing with my friends using the Chainmail appendix and later with the original D&D rules set. Throughout the rest of the decade D&D grew, and all kinds of official rules sets came out.
I threw the rules book out and my group started playing a game I made up after watching Star Wars called "Black Laser." The scenario was a steal from Metamorphosis Alpha: civilization had attained high tech, but somehow fallen, and now the players had to kill monsters and take treasure. But my game had a twist. I made up the rules as a went along, but once I made up the rule it was permenant. And the players rolled up stats of various kinds, but filled in what they meant as the game went on. For example, you might roll up a Social Proficincy rating of 10, which meant you got ten points of various social related skills, or influential acquantances to retroactively call on as the game progressed. But once that was spent you were through. For example, the player's might be jailed by the local contables. A player with a Social Skills rating of 10 would "spend" two points of his Social Skills to claim Hamletsville Hobknobbing II, which might imply that he had could pull strings with the Hamletsville jailer to bring him a comb, and another player might spend two points of his "Mechanical Proficiency" to buy Lockpicking II to pick the lock with the comb and escape. But the player's would now only have 8 unallocated proficiency points.

One noteworthy experience was a character who stole an interstellar rocket and took off for alpha centauri. He was going to be alone in the ship for the next twenty years. All I could say was, "What do you do next?" He said he would practice the drums for twenty years without break. I had to figure out what level of Drumming skill that got him to.
But then I realized that's what it's all about. Get where you can do your equivalent of practice drums for 20 years.

You'll find you eat a lot of junk food and watch TV.

2:

"So, what do you think about MMORPGs? Aren't they the same thing?"

Yes and no. According to the social sciences, there are distinct levels of communication, and non-verbal cues are an extremely powerful aspect. You do not get subtle body-cues from other players in a MMORPG. While that in and of itself can be useful--I have worked QA at Sony for their Star Wars MMO and I did have a male character that I played on the public servers--doing so in person is different. Again, I watch poker-players for similar reasons.

For the record, it's kind of a known thing that males tend to be more oblivious to body-cues than females. I suspect that this is because females are more vigilent regarding communication than males are. The reasons aren't that mysterious. We are not the 'standard.' So we have to be more careful about what is expressed.

3:

Regarding writing, RPGs taught me a great deal about story pacing, characters, and dialog. When you have immediate feedback from players, it's easy to see when you're boring them. They start chatting with one another. They text their friends. You can see by their expressions whether or not you've got their attention. I think it's a good thing for all writers to experience.

Absolutely. I've valued the Play by Email Gaming I've done for that reason. When players aren't responding to their turns...I know I am often doing it wrong...

4:

I used to be terrified of phones, so much so that I use to go into panic attacks. Not so bad nowadays, but I still hate using phones to call anyone other than immediate family or my partner.

D&D (and other RPGs) has taught me a lot too, and I still play and exercise my creative mind, which helps clear up headspace when I sit down to write.

5:

"I've valued the Play by Email Gaming I've done for that reason. When players aren't responding to their turns...I know I am often doing it wrong..."

I did that too, Paul. It's an even better analog to writing since typing is involved. It's really great for dialog practice and creating subtle differences between characters.

6:

"D&D (and other RPGs) has taught me a lot too, and I still play and exercise my creative mind, which helps clear up headspace when I sit down to write."

Good for you! Panic attacks aren't fun.

My husband and I have 'D&D date night.' So, I *still* play.

7:

Also.
RPGs teach you to approach the world as a problem to be solved by making the right moves. Most other cultural forces try to teach you to NOT think about what moves to make, but rather they try to train you to drift along reacting as programmed or blown by social winds. Even those institutions that teach gaming your situation, such as sports, teach it as applicable only in one area. Once you leave the field, turn off your evil Ego and drift along in a Dionysian haze. I guess females are especially expected to not game life but to go with the flow. Somehow that dovetails with less female RPG participation. Or maybe they just don't need it, they already know about being calculating. Just guessing.

As for reading cues, the way I remember playing, we were largely sunk in imagining the world and not really seeing each other. If something was actually acted out, as the DM playing out NPCs or the players dealing with them or with each other in character, the acting was broad and exaggerated to distinguish it and make it clear that it was In Character.

Maybe things got more sophisticated.

8:

Back in the eighties, D&D wasn't translated into french. So I mostly learnt english with the player's manual (and Pink Floyd the Wall, but that's another story...). ion high school I could speak about light horses and elves, but not about what I did the day before (except when I played D&D of course).
For a (former) player a lot of actual Fantasy is just rubbish, bad scenarii never played (and not to be read anyway).
As a Dm and a player, what do you think of Fantasy ?

9:

The reasons women tend not to game are not mysterious. They are very simple and they have nothing to do with what's wrong with women. Frankly: we. are. not. welcome. I won't go into the reasons why we're not welcome. It's been argued about a zillion times over the internet with dramatic results and very little change. This is why men would hugely benefit from walking in women's shoes for a while. Seriously.

For the record, I disagree with your point of view about life. Although, in regards to corporate jobs... strangely, I would.

"I guess females are especially expected to not game life but to go with the flow. Somehow that dovetails with less female RPG participation. Or maybe they just don't need it, they already know about being calculating. Just guessing."

Holy crap, dude. Calculating? Wow.

Let's approach this from a different angle. What if you were put in a cage with a trained bear and were forced to live with it? I promise you'd learn really quick to be vigilent about observing its body cues.

"As for reading cues, the way I remember playing, we were largely sunk in imagining the world and not really seeing each other."

Most people who play are like that. I'm a writer. My job is to observe. It's what we do.

10:

"Back in the eighties, D&D wasn't translated into french. So I mostly learnt english with the player's manual (and Pink Floyd the Wall, but that's another story...)."

That's a great story. I love it! Someone just tweeted about how a dyslexic friend learned to read in High School solely to learn to play D&D. That's just so cool. I'm for whatever works.

"For a (former) player a lot of actual Fantasy is just rubbish, bad scenarii never played (and not to be read anyway). As a Dm and a player, what do you think of Fantasy ?"

Fantasy as a genre doesn't have a monopoly on rubbish. SF contains a lot of rubbish too. In face, every genre has crappy writers and crappy stories.

11:

"in fact" not "in face." [sigh]

12:

>>Fantasy as a genre doesn't have a monopoly on rubbish. SF contains a lot of rubbish too. In fact, every genre has crappy writers and crappy stories.
I'm perfectly aware of that and the bigger the genre, the most the crap (you didn't read french cintemporary litterature, didn't you? then don't even think of it : pseudo self-fiction and that's all...) but the problem with fabtasy is the settings "hey ! I'm a good Dm, why shouldn't I write a campaign, I could sell it as a novel... of I don't know anything about justice in the middle age, no problem, I'll call it Sword romance (still got to find the sorcery...)
My opinion is that litterature is an adventure : just go! it's hard, it's demanding, sometimes yours shoes hurt, or it is the backpack, and of course it's dangerous, you can lose your control, your friends, your vision of the world. In fact you can lose yourself. Real, good litterature do that kind of things : Proust, Gracq, Tolkien, Dick, Hemingway they carry you to another country and yes it's hard to follow, but when you have climbed the mountain the view is astonishing!
The novel I read the most and love the best are like treks in the Himmalaya : hard to foloow, demanding but with a good background, you can follow and the reward is great : Doctorow, Brin, Baxter and of course Stross !
And there are the ones that are just like friends, not demanding but you walk with them and while speaking you notice the world is slightly different than it used to be before you fell in friendship with them : Pratchett is the best in that kind, Varley is a good friend and Shepard too (but is more of the second kind)
But... most of fantasy is just tourism : you go to a foreign land but don't have to learn the language, you don't have to speak to foreigners. You just play around the pool in Club Méditerranée... but in Tunisia or Marocco ("oh! I love north africa, I've been to Djerba twice!"). And the writer is noone to you, not a friend not a guide, just a "gentil animateur"completely interchangeable with the next one (and NO, I won't give names..)
And the worst kind of tourism is the kind where you come back and NOTICE you didn't see the place at all. You were driven from place ton place but didn't get out of the bus. And the bus driver is very often a former D&D Dm and a bad one.
Good DM are rare maybe as rare as good writers, but bad DM who want to write are awful.

note : I began reading Blood and Honey yesterday, you are not the last kind of writer. Don't worry at all. But I look forward your idea of what a good fantasy novel is or should be. Did you have the kind of trip I'm talking abut and who (as a writer) took you in Big Adventure.

13:

(I wish men could earn a "woman badge." I think it'd be an eye-opening experience.)

Theoretically, they can. After all, it's just a matter of empathy and putting yourself into the position of the other character. Problem is, our culture tends to give women a LOT of experience of how "the other half" live - our culture is very male-centric. Most protagonists in film, in games, in novels, in just about every single cultural medium, are male. What's more, we know a lot about what it's like to grow up male - almost all the protagonists in Bildungsroman tend to be male. So it's easy enough for a woman to create a believable masculine character - all she has to do is channel entirely too much popular culture.

It's not as easy for a man to create a believable feminine character. That actually requires work, because our culture has a limited range of life experiences that we're willing to listen to a female character through. Things like growing up, learning who we are, getting our first job? Those things are either limited to "oh my gods, I've started menstruating" stories for very young teenagers (and these days, pre-teens) or they're considered to be BORING, total zed-fest[1], and why don't you talk about a REAL character (i.e. a male one) instead? Things like fighting (either physically, intellectually, or metaphorically) for something you believe in? Again, we're told we'd rather hear about that experience from male characters. Day to day life? Well, that's something that guys can experience and be interesting with - girls, not so much.

(I mean, who wants to read about all the housework being done by someone else? Well, actually, I would; particularly if the "someone else" was someone who wasn't me, and the housework in question was the boring, day-to-day stuff that I don't like dealing with like washing dishes and sweeping the floor! Doubleplus bonus points if the "someone else" doing it is male and doesn't require me to be physically standing there supervising in order to make certain he isn't going to follow one of the two great male housework avoidance strategies. Guys, that thing you do where your female partner/housemate asks you to do a chore for her, so you either need to have every single step of the chore explained in great detail, or else you do it so poorly that you're in need of constant supervision in order to ensure the chore gets done to a normal standard? NOT FUNNY.)

Plus, of course, in a game like D&D, we're running slap up against the sexist assumptions about the role of women in history that Tansy Rayner Roberts took to pieces in her blog. Women were actually present for the majority of history, and a lot of us were actually present there on the front lines of history. We just weren't reported because the (male) recorders and the (male) historians either didn't bother to notice us, or else purposely erased us from the picture because we "weren't important".

[1] I'm Australian. We pronounce the final letter of the alphabet "zed".

14:

"I'm perfectly aware of that and the bigger the genre, the most the crap (you didn't read french cintemporary litterature, didn't you?"

Ah ha! Now I understand your question. No, I haven't. I only got through first year French in school.

"but the problem with fabtasy is the settings "hey ! I'm a good Dm, why shouldn't I write a campaign, I could sell it as a novel... "

Yeah. That. I'm with you. You are correct. I absolutely do not recommend taking a D&D campaign and then converting it into a novel. That is a very bad idea. It CAN be done, mind you. (Did you know that 'A Game of Thrones' began as George R.R. Martin's D&D campaign? True story.) However, it's important to note that RPGs are a very different means of storytelling than novels are. Some things just don't translate. Films fall into a similar category. (I can always tell when a student has learned to write dialog from watching film.) There are many different means of storytelling. and I recommend that writers learn from all of them because there is much to learn, but it's important to know that they are not all interchangeable.

"My opinion is that litterature is an adventure : just go! it's hard, it's demanding, sometimes yours shoes hurt, or it is the backpack, and of course it's dangerous, you can lose your control, your friends, your vision of the world. In fact you can lose yourself."

We have the same opinion of literature, apparently. That's nice! Right now I'm reading Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan and I'm enjoying it a great deal. Of course, Charlie is one of my favorite writers. (No, really. He is.) I've been a hard core Tolkien fan since I was 17. (I've even got a Tolkien tattoo.) I adore Terry Pratchett. My favorite character is either Commander Vimes or Granny Weatherwax. I could go on and on--there's a LOT of good stuff out there, but I don't want to bore you with a loooong list. :)

15:

"We are not the 'standard.' So we have to be more careful about what is expressed."

I like that.

I'm at first glance part of that standard (at least the US standard): a white male. But I'm gay and grew up in rural AL and MS, so being careful about what was being expressed (both by me and to me) has been a survival skill. I only barely dabbled in RPG, but daily life in my childhood/teenage years was about role playing. And I think I'm a more balance adult because of it. I sometimes worry that having found a supportive community and being more able to just be myself and relax has softened some of my skills of perception and made it harder to read hidden cues.

16:

Interesting post, Stina -- and nice to see a Charlie Stross blog post using the word "y'all!" Being from the (American) South myself, I think the contraction gets a bum rap -- how is it not better than the more widely used American pluralization of you of "you guys?" Ladies aren't guys!

I thought it was interesting that you commented that you liked watching poker players. I write some - and hope to write more - and I'm also an off-again-on-again amateur poker player, and I agree -- it can be fascinating, the act or persona that you (and your opponents) can inhabit in a game of poker. It really is play-acting. Hands played are often spoken of like stories, and there's a reason for that. (Statistics matter a whole hell of a lot, too, but that's another tale for another time).

Enjoyed the post. Thanks.

Dan

17:

"Theoretically, they can. After all, it's just a matter of empathy and putting yourself into the position of the other character."

Actually, the problem is a lot more subtle and complex than you're making it seem. Understand, I used to think as you seem to--that the issue is easily resolved if only men would listen, but men won't listen. However, you're forgetting that men and women are both terribly intelligent creatures. If the answer were that simple, it'd be resolved already. So, set your anger aside (and I understand because I've been angry too) for just a moment and just think about it. Allow for the possibility that it isn't that simple.

If what you've said were right, then all I'd have had to do to write about The Troubles was to be empathetic and put myself into the position of the other character. Trust me. It wasn't that simple.

Are you familiar with the term 'milieu'? There are aspects of our individual cultural experience that we don't notice--aspects that are so escential to who and what we are that we don't even talk about it. We don't even think about it. These are the things that separate human beings from one another. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, it can be if we forget that they exist. The beautiful and amazing thing about human beings is that at the same time we have so much in common we're each distinctly unique.* There's a trick to the problem of people. Treat others as if they're too different, and we alienate them. Treat others as if they're too the same, and we run roughshod over them. There's a balance, you see.

That said, there are things about being female that men can't see without walking in our shoes a bit. Just as there are some things that females can't see without walking in men's shoes a bit. Mind you, there are things about both that neither will ever understand. That's just how it is. It doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

Example: While reading about The Troubles I started to see a pattern. It wasn't one that anyone in the history books I was reading actually said or anything. It slowly became clear that there was an assumption being made. Catholics could tell whether or not someone was a Protestant from a distance. Protestants could spot Catholics from a distance too. Again, this wasn't ever stated in an obvious way. I noticed it by reading between the lines. I would never have understood why if I hadn't asked someone from Northern Ireland how they knew. The funny thing? They did know what cues they were reading, but they didn't talk about it. Just like there were little details like if you live in certain neighborhoods, kids would never play kick the can. They don't walk close to parked cars either. If I'd just gone with what I'd read in history books and then used empathy, I'd have gotten those details totally wrong.

I'm not sure I'm making sense. Just... please understand that there are subtle distinctions that aren't that easy to pick up on.

"Problem is, our culture tends to give women a LOT of experience of how "the other half" live - our culture is very male-centric."

Oh, yes. I very much agree with you there.

"It's not as easy for a man to create a believable feminine character."

I absolutely agree. And it's not only for the reasons you've stated. Men simply aren't trained to gaze outside their milieu. It's very, very difficult to see what you've been trained to believe isn't there. It's like a fish seeing water. Or a person seeing air. You really don't know it's there until it's gone.

"Those things are either limited to "oh my gods, I've started menstruating" stories..."

OMG, LOL. Yes. THAT. Holy shit. It's like that's the ONLY difference between men and women. Right? I hate that. And most of the time they don't get it right. Makes me feel reduced to that one difference.

"Things like fighting (either physically, intellectually, or metaphorically) for something you believe in?"

Because women never fight for things they believe in. Oh, wait. There were the Suffragettes. Oh, right and women are soldiers too. Hang on. Heh.

"Plus, of course, in a game like D&D, we're running slap up against the sexist assumptions about the role of women in history that Tansy Rayner Roberts took to pieces in her blog."

I'm totally checking out that link later. Thanks for that. Seriously. Oh, and don't worry about the zed thing. You didn't lose me. :)
----------------------------
* Have you ever seen the film Harold and Maude? (It's a favorite of mine.) There's a scene in it where Maude asks Harold: I should like to change into a sunflower most of all. They're so tall and simple. What flower would you like to be?
Harold: I don't know. One of these, maybe.
Maude: Why do you say that?
Harold: Because they're all alike.
Maude: Oooh, but they're *not*. Look. See, some are smaller, some are fatter, some grow to the left, some to the right, some even have lost some petals. All *kinds* of observable differences. You see, Harold, I feel that much of the world's sorrow comes from people who are *this*,
[she points to a daisy]
Maude: yet allow themselves be treated as *that*.
[she gestures to a field of daisies]
Maude: [cut to a shot of a field of gravestones in a military cemetery]

It's a very powerful scene.

18:

"We are not the 'standard.' So we have to be more careful about what is expressed."

I like that.

Thanks. I wasn't sure how else to explain the thought process of NOT being the one in power. I suspect all minorities are more in tune with body cues--not just women. But science in general (that is, the bio-sciences and the social sciences) hasn't really come to terms with the existance of women. They still operate on the assumption of the standard: male.

"I'm at first glance part of that standard (at least the US standard): a white male. But I'm gay and grew up in rural AL and MS, so being careful about what was being expressed (both by me and to me) has been a survival skill."

Wow. Thanks for that. You just gave me an insight I didn't have before. It makes perfect sense, and I know I've heard it before, but it didn't really click until just then. That's so cool.

Crap... I mean it ISN'T cool that you had to go through that. Living in the southern U.S. as I do, I have some idea of how dangerous it probably was for you. Frankly, *that* makes me sick.

What IS cool is that I reached a deeper understanding. You know what I mean. I hope. Thanks for that.

19:

"Being from the (American) South myself, I think the contraction gets a bum rap -- how is it not better than the more widely used American pluralization of you of "you guys?" Ladies aren't guys!"

True! That kind of thing annoys me a bit--that assumption of generic maleness. It especially annoys me when women do it themselves. "Suck my dick." Um. Hello, honey. I'm not sure you're aware of this but... pssst... you don't have a dick. Think about what you're saying and more importantly why. Okay?

"It really is play-acting. Hands played are often spoken of like stories, and there's a reason for that."

It's even more interesting when the poker player in question is a professional actor. It's nigh impossible to spot.

"Enjoyed the post. Thanks."

You're very welcome.

20:

Burned into my mind, from long ago:

RPG= Rocket Propelled Grenade

Even after reading a lot on the Web about role-playing games the"old" definition is what comes up at first each time I see those 3 letters.

Of course it does have some relevance here since, if I am to believe Wikipedia:

"The RPG-7 has been used during The Troubles by both the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the Ulster Volunteer Force, and other Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries."

But right immediately after that the role playing games come up in my mind. I've been reading "Full Frontal Nerdity" by Aaron Williams for several years now. I've enjoyed it a lot and most of my knowledge of role-playing games comes from it.

I live in an extremely non-English society where role-playing games are fringe things which are of no interest to the native form of geek/nerd.

To me,role-playing games and US-style geekiness are fascinating, alien things. So, when I come across something like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1-bLmjLHlQ

I am completely bowled over.

21:

Let's approach this from a different angle. What if you were put in a cage with a trained bear and were forced to live with it? I promise you'd learn really quick to be vigilent about observing its body cues.

Wow. This is... I have no words for this. This feels pretty bad.

Is this related to the fact that every man is perceived a potential rapist, so you have to watch out, whereas men don't have to worry about this, or is that something else? I'd like you to expand.

Maybe I can relate in a small part, from a different angle. I dunno.
But I've always felt more comfortable among women than men. There's often this hidden current where every man tries to prove himself the top dog and assert his dominance, as well as affirm that he is "a true man, not an homo", that I find extenuating and uncomfortable.
This, IMO, explains in part bullying. When you fail to prove yourself as strong enough, when other men feel that you're weak and that they can pick on you, there's this tendency to do just that. I've felt that once or twice, and found it quite hard to resist

It's easier, IMO, to exist as a person (at least if you're a male) among females than among men, because you can spend more time talking with the other and just being you in your entirety instead of worrying about your survival among a band of wolves and having to avoid showing any weakness.

22:

I'm from a farming background, though the livestock side was dropped a year or two after I started school. I had, by then, picked up the idea that you paid attention to what the cattle were doing, and that they were individuals. It was, I suppose, instinctive, but the lesson stuck with me, and I think some of the same instincts have stuck with me.

I don't think it's an accident that the assorted dogs and cats of the household have been well-behaved. Have you ever tried to wash a cat? Tabitha trusted this ape-monster.

My Uncle's floozy is of the "Ooh, baby!" school of cat care. Tabitha would disappear with well-honed speed and agility.

Some people just don't notice the cues.

23:

It's easier, IMO, to exist as a person (at least if you're a male) among females than among men

This sounded strange, so, just to clarify, this is, of course, because I don't know what it is to be a woman among women.
And now that I think of it, as much as I'd like (and hope) that we can, at least for a time, just be mostly humans being together, I can't, of course, tell how much/little the fact that I'm a male skew things.

24:

In my opinion no, MMORPGs and table-top (pen & paper if you prefer) RPGs aren't the same thing at all, particularly when it comes to storytelling.

MMORPGs fulfill a niche that, to generalise, always seems to me to that role-players from the young wargaming male coterie like. There's not actually an emphasis on role-play - rather there are a number of challenges to solve as neatly as possible, no real concern for a story or characterisation. It's why quests are usually just chucked together "Collect 5 of these" "Kill 10 of those."

I appreciate that the computer does the equivalent of rolling all the dice, but you can't play an MMORPG or very few of them without constantly rolling dice. OTOH you can certainly have very satisfying sessions in a table-top game without ever touching the dice. There are certainly also sessions when there's lots of dice rolling too but that mix is lacking in MMORPGs.

And, of course, to some extent that's inevitable - you have to guide people through standard processes in an MMORPG - they can't cope with a character who sits in the corner and plays drums for 17 years whereas a tabletop game can. And a great one can even make it interesting for the drummer.

25:

Have you read "The Elfish Gene", by a former D&D player and now journalist called Mark Barrowcliffe? All about being a bit different and discovering D&D as a teenager; very funny and heartbreaking in places -- anyone with some experience of D&D will be nodding along as they read.

26:

Ok, start with some background - I too have played print RPGs, starting with Red Box D&D. In fact, I (male) played with a group of 4 females about my own age. I'm still in regular touch with one of them, occasional touch with two, and the fourth died of cancer in the 1990s.

Since them, I've done PBEmail with a mixed group, and the ladies in said group commented favourably on just how well I played a female character. Also, I'm normally a serious tech head, and deliberately chose to make her uninterested in science and technology as an additional challenge for myself.

27:

In this context, I'd also like to suggest finding the movie "GamerZ" (note spelling), not least because it actually shows the lives of 2 of the film characters changing as a result of the role-playing. Saying much more than that would risk spoiling though.

28:

Interesting wonder what NI residents would make of me being from a mixed background Catholic/Protestant.

I also started out back in the dim and distant days of the 3 brown books in fact my first trip up to London on my own was to buy a copy of the Dnd Boxed set. However, I started out as a proper war gamer first. What your mean you paladin did not have his carrier battle group (CBG) sorted out.

I’ve also run traveller games using the original black books where the books where older than some of the players :-)

I have always been in school that liked RPG’s as away of playing different characters some times radically different I think I mentioned my ex PIRA Cyberpunk Solo before.

I do wish I had kept the pissed off email from Sam Chupp (one of the founders of White Wolf) over my taking my Black Fury Metis character to its logical conclusion.

The ACT up organization made me think would not the untouchables of the werewolf world start taking a leaf out of the civil/gay rights movement and start campaigning for equal rights and stopping the euthanizing of metis at birth.

I thought it was interesting to take an really outsider character and based it on Ru Paul, Sandra Barnhart and Pat Califa.

The gender balance is interesting in our club we have at times had an almost 50/50 spit in the RPG section and we do have some one who is transitioning MTF at the moment.

29:

I don't have a woman badge, but I had to take "girl lessons" from my wife as I became more involved in management.

Sometime I can see the differences, especially in dialect, but often it's just subtle, non-obvious differences, like choosing a pull-through parking space.

30:

Totally off-topic.
Sad news.
Another one lost to us
Cue "At the Castle Gate" from Sibelius' Pelleas & melisande .....

31:

Para2 - Which side would you think choose pull-through parking (where possible)? I said (recently) that I'm male, and I'd pull-through when I can because it's quickest and avoids reversing in or out. I'd normally reverse in as second choice, because it minimises reversing on a cold engine (and I drive a diesel, so I don't have significant differences in engine handling hot or cold).

The point is that some of these things are down to driver training or preferences at least as much as they are to the driver's gender.

32:

Huh -- I had the phone thing too. (Still hate the damn things. I'm early-adopter enough that I can honestly say I've always preferred E-Mail. I didn't get a cell phone until around 2005, and didn't get a smartphone until a couple of months ago -- and I'm a computer scientist. Course, now I love the thing, but not because it's a phone so much as because it's a little Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy I get to carry around with me.)

I never played much D&D but I've always had friends who did. (Sure enjoyed the early Dragonlance books as a teen. Speaking to your comment on how it's usually, but not always, a bad idea to turn a D&D campaign into a novel: I think they get progressively worse as Weis and Hickman start writing the novels from scratch; the early books that ARE based on their campaign are the best.)

I DID do the community theatre thing for a number of years, and that helped me both socially and in being able to work my way into someone else's headspace. Plus, after a few years doing The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it's become close to impossible to embarrass me.

Well, I'm rambling. It's what I do.

33:

You know, being the contrarian I am, I keep wondering about the dark side of a class and level based society, and whether it's worth writing something based in such a realm.

Here's the thing: it's fun to fantasize about a society where you are your job: fighter, cleric, thief, whatever. Then again, we Americans have certain issues with living in such a caste-ridden society.

Let's add some levels into that too. Speaking for myself, the levels always seemed to be sort of like grades at school or colored belts in the martial arts. Thing is, there are level-based groups: the masons and other secret societies, for example. Or the military. In these cases, talent and time only take you so far. Above a certain level, it's all about the politics. Some militaries, like (I believe) the US Marine Corps even have an up-or-out policy for senior officers, where if you don't rise to the next rank you're forced to retire from the force. In other rank-based societies, such as in the Solomon Islands, high ranking chiefs formerly had to sacrifice one or more people as part of the (very expensive) ritual to gain rank, while in Africa, secret societies flourished as part of the slave trade (and guess where they got the money to rise in rank--selling other people to the whites).

All of this makes me think that a society where everyone has to level up or get passed by as a has-been would have some serious internal conflicts. Wars might be fought simply so that some high level fighter can level up again. If we're lucky. If not, that fighter may start enslaving and selling towns to pay for the proper rites. Whole landscapes could be altered as the result of a magical or clerical fights among high-level mages and clerics. And so forth. A caste with an up-or-out policy would be even more dire--perhaps this is the way assassins work? Or maybe that's the way paladins do things. After all, it's difficult to stay lawful good in politics.

In any case, I don't know of many fantasy stories that have touched on this idea, but certainly someone could have a lot of fun with it.

34:

I think part of your answer lies in the word "Fantasize"; it's "not real life".

Personally, I always took "level X $class" as an indication of the character's skills and knowledge. WHat I had issues with was, say, giving a thief experience points, and by extension levels, for chibbing orcs in open combat!

As to your paragraph 4, that was sort of handled, if not very well handled, in Red Box by how above about level 4 the XP required to level up rose 2x per level. By about level 7 or 8 you needed to kill vast numbers of, say, kobolds to level, so that alone gave you a need to seek bigger game. Equally, I remember that version recommending that characters above about L15 should be retired and become NPC patrons for the next generation low level. I'm not claiming that this system was perfect, far from it, but simply that I'm not sure that some of your scenarios should have happened in a competently run game (By extension I'm saying that powergamers are not competent).

35:

"Burned into my mind, from long ago:

RPG= Rocket Propelled Grenade"

Oh, dear. I definitely DON'T mean that. This is why I try spell things out before relying on the short form.

"To me,role-playing games and US-style geekiness are fascinating, alien things. So, when I come across something like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1-bLmjLHlQ

I am completely bowled over."

Yikes. LOL.

36:

Fantasy adventurers are, basically, wanderers with an eye out for profit opportunities. It's not like they get formal ranks from the International Brotherhood of Murder-Prone Hobos.

I've always pictured the typical first-level adventurer band as just a bunch of teenagers in a bar who are drunk enough to think they can handle this kobold thing themselves.

It was easier to think that way back in the days of the Basic Set, when beginning characters were just not very competent and we didn't even name them until fifth level.

37:

Is this related to the fact that every man is perceived a potential rapist, so you have to watch out, whereas men don't have to worry about this, or is that something else? I'd like you to expand.

I'm not Stina, but I'm a woman. In very short: it's not pleasant to get beaten either.

For some reason, a significant portion of the male population seems to think that they are insufficiently manly if they don't threaten physical violence if they are displeased.
And when someone larger, heavier and significantly stronger than you gives the impression that they will hit you when you make them angry, you tend to be careful not to do so.

38:

"Let's approach this from a different angle. What if you were put in a cage with a trained bear and were forced to live with it? I promise you'd learn really quick to be vigilent about observing its body cues.

Wow. This is... I have no words for this. This feels pretty bad.

Is this related to the fact that every man is perceived a potential rapist, so you have to watch out, whereas men don't have to worry about this, or is that something else? I'd like you to expand."

Not just rapists, but potential abusers and murderers. Now, I'm not saying this is a good thing, this fear. All men aren't like that, but enough of them are that women have to be very careful when they are around men they don't know. That's just reality. Men don't police male behavior as well as everyone likes to pretend--at least in American society. So, this attitude of "ladies, you might be 2nd class citizens but trust us menfolk to look after you." is a bunch of horse shit. Blaming victims is horse shit. Sexism and abuse aren't simple problems. It's not the responsibility of women to not be raped or abused. It's the responsibility of the abuser to not rape or abuse.

That said, it generally takes a while for a woman to be herself with a man--particularly when the ability to trust has been damaged. And trust me, the likelihood of a female growing up without some very bad experiences with men is next to nil. It just doesn't get discussed. There's a reason for that. Because when women talk about it, they get crap for it.

A. Lot. Of. Crap. Even death threats.

You asked. I told you.

"There's often this hidden current where every man tries to prove himself the top dog and assert his dominance, as well as affirm that he is "a true man, not an homo", that I find extenuating and uncomfortable."

That sucks. But... yeah... I'm familiar with it. It is a form of bullying. And women compete like that too just in a different form--at least in America. I can't speak for other cultures. In the American south, it's passive-aggressiveness you have to watch out for. Oh, baby.

Women aren't better than men. Women are human beings too. We're all flawed. We're all doing the best we can. We all make mistakes. Hopefully, we learn from those mistakes and become wise. Because the world needs more Yodas.

Or something.

Well, certainly not in the grammar department.

Is there a female equivilent to Yoda? For me Granny Weatherwax comes to mind, but she didn't make quite as funny an image. You know... a world of short green muppets.

39:

"Have you ever tried to wash a cat?"

Actually, I have and successfully so. Well, successfully in that my cat is still speaking to me, and I didn't have to be taken to an emergency room afterwards.

40:

off on a tangent, but maybe someone with a man badge can enlighten me:

In my experience it is fairly common for men to complain that women are parasites (a drain on money and time) and incompetent morons. (And all the other men present to make like bobbleheads).

But when you reply to them that they pretty please shouldn't extrapolate from their girlfriend/wife to all other women, they are enraged how one could insult their girlfriend/wife thus.

Are men actually too dense to realize they themselves did that, first?

Are men actually too dense to realize that they are insulting every woman in "earshot"?

Are men also too dense to realize that by nodding along instead of saying something, they are badly disloyal to their girlfriend/wife, mother and (if existing) daughters?

41:

"And now that I think of it, as much as I'd like (and hope) that we can, at least for a time, just be mostly humans being together, I can't, of course, tell how much/little the fact that I'm a male skew things."

Sad but true. You'll never see how women are with women when there are no men present. So what? Women can learn to trust men. And men can be who they are with women. Trust takes patience, practice, and empathy.

Nobody ever said that being a human being was easy.

42:

This comment excluded gays since IME they don't seem to feel the need to bad-mouth women.

43:

I come from the role-playing side of gaming, myself. I get very bored with dice-rolling. I also get bored with grindy MMORPGs. If the plot is thin enough that I can see the "collect 6 blahs and come back to me" aspect* of the game then I'll pretty much quit playing within a week no matter how shiny it is. Probably sooner.

I like stories. Give me a story to interact with. I could give a crap less about collecting worthless bits of non-existant junk. Give me a damned story that I can lose myself in.

And that's why I never made it in the computer games industry--well, one of the reasons. That said, I'm a storytelling/roleplaying DM. That's why I kept the same players for so long. I focused on the story. Dane (my husband) told me once that I don't DM like anyone he ever met. At the time, I didn't believe him. I used the game to test novel ideas and novel characters, not the other way around.
---------------------
* We used to call that the 'milk run.' Of course, in the table-top D&D games I've played 'milk run' was code for 'Holy crap, the DM is going to kill us.' This, because a long ago NPC (non-player character) had said to a group of player characters, "Oh, can you do something for me? It's nothing. Just a quick milk run." Famous last words, those.

44:

"Have you read "The Elfish Gene", by a former D&D player and now journalist called Mark Barrowcliffe?"

Nope. Another thing I'll have to look up. :)

45:

"I'd also like to suggest finding the movie "GamerZ""

And another thing to look into. Heh. This is fun. (Oh, and good for you on the female character. However, females can be into science and tech too.)

46:

"I don't have a woman badge, but I had to take "girl lessons" from my wife as I became more involved in management."

Good for her, and good for you for learning.

47:

Awww. I like what he said about being a girl not being a hendrance at all. He must've been wonderful.

48:

"This comment excluded gays since IME they don't seem to feel the need to bad-mouth women."

Ah... well... that's not been my experience. I used to know a gay male who made a habit of saying pretty awful things about women. Constantly. [shrug] I also had a good friend who happened to be gay, and he was an amazing person. Gays are human beings too. Being part of a minority group does not exempt you from personal flaws.

Er... I'm not going to answer the other question since that actually needs it's very own lengthy discussion. But again... nobody's perfect.

49:

For some reason, a significant portion of the male population seems to think that they are insufficiently manly if they don't threaten physical violence if they are displeased.
Oh, that. Yes, I can understand*, thanks.

I often think that this happen when you both lack the means to express your feelings (it's easier to just hit on things) and the empathy to perceive the other as another sentient instead of a frustrating thing.

* Ironically thanks to my mother, actually, who hit me regularly when I was younger. Worse thing was the day when I realized I had become strong enough to hit back, but that this would hurt her: It meant I could have stopped it, save that, well, I couldn't :-D

50:

We had a period when we had to shampoo our tomcat twice a week. For months.

He was really very well behaved, and though he made it obvious that he didn't like it one little bit, he didn't actually resist.

That is when you know whether a cat trusts you fully or not. And that's up to how you have treated the animal, whether you have backed off when the animal got upset, and so on.

51:

However, females can be into science and tech too

I fully realise that; the girl I'm still in regular touch with is a senior lecturer in Chemistry, with tenure, at one of our Universities, my sister is a Microbiologist, the senior telemetry engineer at my work is a woman...
My reasoning for making the character uninterested was that I'm a tech head and wanted to give myself the challenge of playing someone unlike myself in a tech environment.

52:

It's not the responsibility of women to not be raped or abused. It's the responsibility of the abuser to not rape or abuse.
You bet.
I find that infuriating, and am amazed to still hear this when this happens.

A few years ago (what? 4 years at most), a woman was drugged and raped here. As far as I know, none of the men is still imprisoned. Most of them would have committed a worse offense if they had just stolen something.

And trust me, the likelihood of a female growing up without some very bad experiences with men is next to nil. It just doesn't get discussed. There's a reason for that. Because when women talk about it, they get crap for it.
Yeah, I heard that about 1 out of 10 women will be raped in her life. I find that... this is... Well, this is just too big a number.

And yes, it doesn't get discussed. In part because there's this social stigma you talked about above: If it happened, the woman must have done something to provoke it.
But then, there are other things. It is difficult to talk about this, not only because these are traumatic events, but also because these just don't happen. I mean, I know girls that had been raped. But even then when you spoke of death threats, I was all o_O
As I see it, we like to think that we're civilized, and things like this just don't happen in a civilized world. So at some level, you must face some disbelief when telling traumatic events, which required a lot of strength and trust.

And there's this... social norm? That we're all fine and good. And when these do happen, once in a million while, you're just supposed to bounce back and be fine.
You are supposed to be all right, not dragged down by whatever happened to you. So you just shut up, and do as if everything's all right and you're "normal".

I mean, how can someone talk about this when:
- It's at least your fault
- These just don't happen to "normal people", and you're normal, aren't you?
- People are gonna tell you that you're depressing them with your stories and that you should just get over it?

Women aren't better than men. Women are human beings too. We're all flawed. We're all doing the best we can. We all make mistakes. Hopefully, we learn from those mistakes and become wise. Because the world needs more Yodas.
lol yes, I've seen women quarry, and I've seen it get ugly :(
I have seen women be utterly devoid of empathy, too (When someone who claims to be your friend stumble about a word by you saying "I want to die" and has for only reaction to say "that's all?", well, it shatters any remaining ideas you might have had about this :-D)

I have this stupid idea (thanks to Star Trek Classic) that, if we are all willing to discuss and try to understand each other, we can at least manage to get along. But I've seen to much men and women be unwilling to even try to think dearly of us as a species.


Oh, and RPGs? Among other things, it provided me a place where I could be with people that would not threaten me. A place where I could be something else than a victim. It helped me make some friends, and was a big socialization tool for me.

Anyway, thank you very much, you two.

53:

Gays are human beings too. Being part of a minority group does not exempt you from personal flaws.

Absolutely. For my sample, it seems mostly a result of not being terribly interested in talking about women at all for some reason. :)

54:

"Is there a female equivilent to Yoda? For me Granny Weatherwax comes to mind, but she didn't make quite as funny an image. You know... a world of short green muppets."

Never heard of Ms Weatherwax before, but from what I've read of USA popular culture I have but one answer:

Mammy Yokum.

Incredibly wise and principled, really small, lived on a strange planet called Dogpatch. However, she stopped being authentic and believable some time in the early 60s.

55:

@ 54
SO
You've never come across PTerry?
Oh dear.

Try googling: (Sir) Terry Pratchett
or
Discworld

56:

Misogyny is implicitly a product of the socialisation of low-status males. Because if you've got some other group to look down on, you're obviously not at the bottom of the pile, right?

See also racism.

If you're in a group of males and someone begins to come out with this shit it's difficult to argue with them without potentially starting a fight, because they're expressing it to assert status, and your dissent serves to invalidate their self-image. Which means they may feel forced to escalate (potentially to violence) to defend their own sense of identity. So it's easier to keep your trap shut.

(Male violence: not only is it directed against women, it's directed against males who don't define their social status in terms of being not-female. Which in turn feeds into homophobia, although it's not the sole cause.)

57:

On second thoughts, the TL:DR; version should read: "patriarchal values hurt everyone".

(And patriarchy is merely one of the current three most obvious status-defining systems that hurt us; in general, humans are social primates, we build hierarchies, and all primate hierarchies tend to hurt those who are on the bottom.)

58:

Further to Greg Tilney's reply (next message in sequence after the one I'm replying to), Terry Pratchett, Discworld, and start with "The Colour of Magic", not because it's the best of the 40some, but because it's got essential background in it. For illustrating the point Greg's making about Granny Weatherwax, you want "Equal Rites", "Witches Abroad" and Masquerade".

59:

Sudden, almost throw-away thought prompted by this - The R in MMORPG is Roll rather than Role, isn't it?

60:

What are the other two heirarchies?

And what's the best cure for these heirarchies?
Egalitarianism? Meritocracy? Individualism?

61:

What are the two other hierarchy systems? I'd have thought they were obvious: to patriarchy/sexism you can add racism and homophobia as the big social nuisances we deal with every day (if by "nuisance" you mean "value system that systematically degrades the majority of and murders many people on a daily basis").

Hierarchies portray themselves as meritocracies, frequently describe themselves as egalitarian, and individualism is an excuse for ignoring the disease. So no, none of those are the answer. (If I had to suggest a candidate, I'd start with humanitarianism and an explicit rejection of inequality and, above all, teaching people to think for themselves and question authority. But that's just a start ... If there was a simple answer we'd have found it a long time ago, so the answer (if there is one) isn't simple.)

62:

Here in the American South, religious chauvinism is a big one. It's probably a bigger deal than homophobia, if only because there aren't all that many gays in the population. Then again, I'm saying that as a heterosexual atheist; a gay evangelical might have a rather different opinion.

Religious chauvinism is also a big factor in the Middle East, India, Russia, central Africa, and parts of the American West (the Mormon areas, mainly). It's not everywhere, but it's plenty of places.

63:

Actually, I'd say that the wealth hierarchy driving all this crap is the worst problem, but whichever.

Thing is, there can be huge amount of value in having an authority, particularly in emergency conditions. A person who constantly stops and questions is worse than useless in a real emergency, or in a war (cf: the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and the actions of the anarchists and communists who sided with the Republic). If the critical problem is one of organizing a group of people and getting that group to do things quickly, a strong hierarchy can be very useful.

Similarly, hierarchies can be very useful in complex situations. While technically anyone can be their own doctor, there is a medical term for such people in most cases: fools. While I don't particularly like many doctors' attitudes, I'm willing to admit that in most cases, they do know more than I do about my body, and their instructions generally help me get better. So I listen to them and do what they say. There are many things where experience and education really do matter, and a hierarchy is a good way to make this work.

That said, hierarchies are like hammers, in that people tend to start viewing all problems as nails, solvable by the people in authority. Either everything's an emergency (cf the Bush II administration), or a doctor/lawyer/tycoon is obviously smart enough to deal with any problem that comes along (whether or not their skill set has anything to do with it. Cf the cults of Gates and Jobs).

This uncritical acceptance of authority leads to so many epic fails that people want to do away with hierarchies altogether. Sadly, lack of hierarchy makes us exquisitely vulnerable to emergencies and problems beyond our level of expertise. Getting rid of all hierarchies is worse than having them.

There's not a good solution. In democracies, we're doing better than most, creating institutions that disassemble hierarchies, things as term limits, up-or-out promotions, and bankruptcies. Still, it's a red queen race, and people always find ways to circumvent such limiting systems. People who want to limit the harm of hierarchies have to constantly innovate too.

Am I excusing racism, misogyny, and homophobia? Absolutely not. I'm just skeptical that we can ever be blase about saying "Oh, we've solved those discrimination problems. Stop fussing your pretty little heads about them." Unfortunately, people outside the conventional stereotypes of authority (currently wealthy white males) are always going to have to work harder to prove their worth, however those conventional stereotypes are defined. That's not fair, but it doesn't mean that the struggle isn't worthwhile, both for the individuals and for the larger society to which they belong.

64:

Sebastian (my cat) actually was pretty relaxed about the whole affair. An opossum had nested under the house, and we'd been instructed to place vials of coyote urine* near the entrance. Sebastian had crawled under the house and knocked it over onto himself. That was unpleasant. He shocked me by being very submissive during the urine removal process. He yowled in protest, but I was very careful not to continue with matters until he was settled. That was the moment I understood how much he trusted me. Pretty powerful, that, since he was a formerly abandoned kitten who'd followed me home.

65:

I kind of figured that. However, the phrasing left some doubt regarding the assumption, and I find it useful to bring attention to things like that when they pop up--not necessarily for the benefit of the author of the message. More for my own edification. You see, the fact that I'm a female didn't exempt me from getting misogynist programming installed via society. So, while I'm glad you clarified... I wasn't insulted or anything. Make sense?

66:

Absolutely. For my sample, it seems mostly a result of not being terribly interested in talking about women at all for some reason. :)

And you know what? Totally valid life-choice. Difficult to avoid, since women are a vast chunk of the population. (51% in the United States.) But hey, whatever works for you.

Unless you're specifically refering to not talking about women in a sexual way. Again, totally valid--just far easier to do.

Women do not = sex. This is again one of those things where I'm clarifying for myself because it came up for me as subtext to the conversation whether or not you intended it to be in your communication or not. :)

Aren't human beings fun? LOL.

67:

I'm not sure I agree with this. It's useful to have designated fire marshalls if your office building catches fire. That doesn't put them in a social hierachy above you. Nor does a doctor's expertise. You can reject the advice, seek a second opinion, there's no authority to compel your deference. You might have your own expertise or a higher social status

As to the Spanish Civil War. I'm not an expert but anyone can lose a war. Highly structured forces can fail, loose coalitions of rival factions succeed.

68:

(Male violence: not only is it directed against women, it's directed against males who don't define their social status in terms of being not-female. Which in turn feeds into homophobia, although it's not the sole cause.)

Charlie, that's a wonderful explanation. Thanks for that.

69:

Hierarchies portray themselves as meritocracies, frequently describe themselves as egalitarian, and individualism is an excuse for ignoring the disease. So no, none of those are the answer. (If I had to suggest a candidate, I'd start with humanitarianism and an explicit rejection of inequality and, above all, teaching people to think for themselves and question authority. But that's just a start ... If there was a simple answer we'd have found it a long time ago, so the answer (if there is one) isn't simple.)

THIS. Absolutely this. It's also why I felt a bit proud when (during a heated panel discussion) Emma Bull said to me, "You're a humanist, aren't you?" Yep. That's me.

70:

Here in the American South, religious chauvinism is a big one. It's probably a bigger deal than homophobia, if only because there aren't all that many gays in the population.

Ah... I disagree. Homophobia often leads to dead people--even today. Religious chauvinism at its worst leads to unemployment in my experience. Threats, sure. Annoying people on your doorstep making attempts to convert you, sure. Shunning, vandalism and so on, sure. (I say this as a non-christian in the American South. I have experience with this.) Murder? Not so much. Also? Just because you don't notice gays doesn't mean they aren't a bigger part of the population than you know. [shrug]

71:

Stina @ 70
Religious chauvinism at its worst leads to unemployment in my experience.
Try saying that in Ireland, as recently as 15 years ago, or anywhere at all in the "muslim" world, where being Sunni/Shi'a/Ismaili/Ahmahdi can get you dead very quickly, never mind the persecution visited on complete unbelievers.

I'm going to risk disagreeing with not only Stina, but also OGH (hello Charlie!) because people ARE NOT EQUAL.
I could never, ever have possibly been a sports star, but I'm certain I'm more intelligent then at least 95% of them.
To my own disgust, I can't read music, or play an instrument (education failure in my teens, & it may be too late, now to do anything about it).
Some people are stupid, some peole are dangrous, some people are mechanically and "structurally" competent (they tend to be engineering types like me) - but pace Heinlein in anither thread - everybody can't do everything, nor should we expect them to.
That is what co-operation & organisational structures SHOULD be for.

72:

As someone who self-identifies as androgynous, and has also known some male-to-female transsexuals, I can tell you why most men don't earn their "woman badge": It has the opposite effect that you observed. Whereas a woman who tries to understand masculinity is given respect and is seen as basically giving masculine culture an implied compliment, a man who acts feminine is seen as weak and a threat to the status of other men.

73:

Quick re-read of entire thread later:-

Yes, it makes sense, but for what it's worth I'm more than just happy to encourage women to be things like, say, car mechanics, if they want to but then if they do automatically talk to them as equals or even superiors when we're discussing a vehicle diagnostics issue (this happens more that you might expect, because I also post on a car make fan website).

74:

Hierarchies portray themselves as meritocracies

Any definition of "merit" is either trivial (all people are equal by that standard) or defines a hierarchy.

75:

Religious chauvinism at its worst leads to unemployment in my experience.

For someone who has written books set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, that is an extremely odd statement.

76:

You're oversimplifying. I'm talking about getting in an extended argument with the fire marshall when he screams at you to run, telling the doctor that no, you're not going to vaccinate your asthmatic child against the flu, because you heard somebody say that vaccines might cause autism, arguing with a teacher over a "drop and cover" order during an earthquake, or (as in the case of the Spanish Civil War) arguing every order and voting on them by unit, which is a great way to deal with someone shooting at you.

Life isn't one hierarchy, top to bottom. I'm pretty sure Obama listens to his wife, just as his doctors can pronounce him unfit to govern if he's seriously sick or injured, even though they have no authority to run the country. Multiple, often clashing, hierarchies are the norm, and unquestioned leaders tend to die when they can no longer order their underlings to care for them (cf: Stalin).

The basic point is that there are occasions where someone does know better than you do, and the best thing you can do is shut up and follow orders. It does not follow that the person giving orders is therefore always above you.

I'm simply saying that, in some cases, a hierarchical social structure, with people knowing and following their duties, is by far the best solution to particular problems. In many other cases, it's the worst solution, and in probably a majority of cases, it doesn't particularly matter whether it's the approach used or not. Therefore, I'm also arguing that getting rid of all hierarchies is counterproductive, just as discarding the hammer in your toolbox is a stupid thing to do.

77:
his doctors can pronounce him unfit to govern if he's seriously sick or injured

Actually, they can only advise; it is up to either the President, or the Cabinet (and Vice President) to decide if the President is unfit to govern. (Both methods used during The West Wing.)

78:

Worked example in case anyone is unclear on heteromeles' point:-

Amongst other tools, my tool room contains a #2 jewelery screwdriver and a 16lb sledgehammer.

The sledge is a far better tool for breaking up paving slabs, but the #2 screwdriver is the better tool for tightening the screws on my spectacles.

79:

I'm no expert on the Spanish Civil War, as I said. Basically I've read - a long time ago - Homage to Catalonia. But wikipedia is your friend and I looked up a long article which you can find here.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_Catalonia
And in it a found a long quotation from - Homage to Catalonia! Very well worth your attention. Excerpted:
"In May for a short while I was acting-lieutenant in command of about thirty men, English and Spanish. We had all been under fire for several months, and I never had the slightest difficulty in getting an order obeyed or in getting men to volunteer for a dangerous job."
Brave and valiant men who deserve not to be dismissed.

80:

Forgive me for not addressing your general argument but it's late and I'm rather tired. But I couldn't let your remark about the anarchist units in the Spanish Civil War go by without commment. They were a militia trained up from scratch, it took time for them to become effective fighting units. But they became effective fighting units.

81:

I'll stand happily corrected. Far be it from me to insult some brave men. If you want, I can substitute the OSS, where I do have some evidence from Smith's history.

82:

I tried several times to read Terry Pratchett because he's supposed to be funny and I love funny Fantasy. He managed to bore me each time. I never got past the first ten pages of each of book I tried. It must be a cultural thing. English isn't my mother tongue and I didn't have to endure Shakespeare in school.

On the other hand I once chanced upon a "graphic novel" version of an early Discworld story in a bookstore and I could not put it down. It was a delight.

Go figure.

83:

"endure" Shakespeare?

Really?

How about enduring this then:

That time of year thou may’st in me behold,
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou sees’t the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the West;
Which by and by, black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou sees’t the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie;
As the death-bed wheron it must expire,
Consum’d with that with which it was nourish’d by.

This thou percievs’t, which makes thy love more strong,
To love well which thou must leave ere long.

84:

Oh, I forgot ...
There's This one as well.
Enjoy!

85:

#82 through #84 inclusive:-

I can understand "endure Spokeshave"; he wrote plays to be acted out by actors on a stage, not read round the class and pulled apart word by word by a semi-randomly chosen group of bored teenagers who are being forced to toe the party line as to the meaning of work. I can watch, and even enjoy, the plays being performed, but the mention of "Shall I compare ye to a Summer's day, dim and wet" still sends shivers down my spine, and not in a good way!

86:

I think the enjoyment of Shakespeare (as his work is taught in UK classrooms, and probably elsewhere) is entirely proportional to the skill and passion of the teacher -- I was fortunate to have an English teacher who was pasionate and worked hard to engage the class (there were still a few who just weren't interested, but you can't win 'em all), and I thoroughly enjoyed the plays we studied.

However, I never read any of Shakespeare's work beyond what was assigned to us in class; but I've recently started reading through his other plays. The impression I am taking away is that most modern teenagers are ill-equipped to properly appreciate and engage with the themes and characters in Shakespeare's work -- once you've tucked a bit of life experience under your belt, you can approach them with fresher and fuller understanding. Of course, if you did have them "inflicted" on you in school (and in many cases the word "inflicted" is correct), then you may never be able to properly enjoy them. That is sad, but true.

87:

There are also good Shakespeare plays and ... not-so-good ones.

We covered Coriolanus for O-level. There may have been a theatre company somewhere that staged that play that year, but we didn't see it.

Contrast that with my wife, who studied Hamlet and lived in London. Every theatre company in sight did Hamlet that year, and she saw many of the great actors of the time playing the part.

I far preferred the alternate text we were studying: Arthur Miller's Crucible.

88:

Scottish syllabus - O-level, the Scottish play, complete with a screening of a film version in the local cinema (during which the Catholic and non-denominational secondaries re-enacted the battle scene, using the foam from the seats as the weapons!
Higher - Hamlet or Othello, depending on teacher's preference.

I loathed the Scottish play, because even at 15 I knew enough Scottish history to know that it was positively libellous, quite aside from having a teacher who was intelligent but uninterested in the work.

Hamlet I quite enjoyed, but will offer up the Arnold Schwartzineger film "The Last Action Hero" as suggesting that English literature teaching in the USA may be no better than it is here.

89:

Maybe one day I'll earn a "Human badge"

90:

I understand that the latest film version of Coriolanus is very scary ....

91:

Maybe one day I'll earn a "Human badge"

What are you, a cabbage or something?

92:

"Try saying that in Ireland, as recently as 15 years ago, or anywhere at all in the "muslim" world, where being Sunni/Shi'a/Ismaili/Ahmahdi can get you dead very quickly, never mind the persecution visited on complete unbelievers."

Hold on. Please do me the honour of keeping my reply in context. The original reply was to an individual from the American south. I'm a non-Christian living in the American south. We were discussing the American south, specifically.

Mind you, I did make an error--two actually. One: I forgot for a moment that I was chatting in an international arena. I shouldn’t have done that. Two: I live in a very liberal part of Texas. It’s possible Muslims are in danger in his part of the American south. I forgot that.

"I'm going to risk disagreeing with not only Stina, but also OGH (hello Charlie!) because people ARE NOT EQUAL."

I suspect you need to recheck the definition of the word. Equal does not mean 'exactly the same.' In arithmetic, 2+2 equals 4. Correct? However, 2+2 does not behave exactly the same in mathematical equations-not without certain concessions. The need for parenthesis and such in equations does not mean that 2+2 is of any less value than 4.

everybody can't do everything, nor should we expect them to.

There is also a distinction between expectation and permission.

93:

"Whereas a woman who tries to understand masculinity is given respect and is seen as basically giving masculine culture an implied compliment, a man who acts feminine is seen as weak and a threat to the status of other men."

This is because 'male' is the norm. You are correct. Nice observation regarding the threat to the status of males as a whole. I hadn't thought about that before. Thank you!

94:

Stina, talking of Northern Ireland, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20651163 is about an active news story over how often the Union Flag get's flown!

95:

"For someone who has written books set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, that is an extremely odd statement."

You are correct. I made a mistake while communicating to someone from my area of the world about my area of the world without being specific. However, I will say that I don't view The Troubles as a religious war. From my perspective as an outsider, it appears to have been about class, politics (nationalism versus loyalism), and (as these things always are) power. The religious aspects seem to be more about easy labels than the specifics of religious differences. Mind you, I could be very wrong in that assessment, but I've been told by those who lived through it that my impression isn't wrong. Keep in mind that I understand that different points of view exist, those who confirmed my impression do not speak for all, and that I consider opposing views to be equally valid. I'm merely stating my impression as an outsider. That does not trump the experiences of those who lived it.

96:

"Actually, they can only advise; it is up to either the President, or the Cabinet (and Vice President) to decide if the President is unfit to govern. (Both methods used during The West Wing.)"

I just wanted to interject that I'd be careful of using a television show (fiction) to back up an opinion on the American government. As thorough as Aaron Sorkin is in his research, using fiction to fortify an opinion as if it were a fact--even American fiction--is er... not so sound an idea. Fiction is still fiction.

97:

"Religion" is usually shorthand for "culture". There's probably a NI joke you've heard that illustrates the point.

A guy is stopped by a gunman who asks: "Are you Catholic or Protestant"
He replies: "I am an atheist"
Gunman: "Are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?"

98:

I would not say the The Troubles are a "Holy War", but it's not much of a generalisation to say that the 2 sides were divided along religious lines.

99:

Stina, talking of Northern Ireland, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20651163 is about an active news story over how often the Union Flag get's flown!

[sigh] I'm so sorry to see that. Back when I started writing Of Blood and Honey the political climate appeared to have calmed down enough to hope that it was over and done. However, when the economic meltdown occurred I knew they were in for serious problems. As I see it, the root of the violence (now) is in the financial situation. (Again, I'm an outsider. I don't know anything for sure.) That said, I grew uneasy once it was clear that the violence was sparking up again. My agent, publisher, and myself--we talked about this. Understand, my manuscript was making the rounds at British publishers the summer the British apologised for Bloody Sunday. That was pretty frightening, you know?

Again, I'm so sorry to see that. Unfortunately, given the financial situation, I'm not surprised.

100:

"Hamlet I quite enjoyed, but will offer up the Arnold Schwartzineger film "The Last Action Hero" as suggesting that English literature teaching in the USA may be no better than it is here."

I'd venture to say it's worse these days. At least when you leave school you're armed with an ability to think about literature. Thanks to an education system that now spends most of its time preparing for corporate-created exams*, I'm stunned that American students get out of school with the ability to read let alone think.
-----------------------
* Corporations are motivated by profit. If allowed free reign, they create a market that exists for the creation of profit, and in this case, their product. They've no concern whether or not the children are educated. Thus, children are constantly preparing for tests that have nothing to do with learning anything except regurgitating test answers. Ah, George W. Bush et all. I love you not.

101:

"Gunman: "Are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?""

Actually, that's a variant I hadn't hear before. Thanks.

102:

"I would not say the The Troubles are a "Holy War", but it's not much of a generalisation to say that the 2 sides were divided along religious lines."

True. However, when the conflict is discussed political reasons are stated as requirements for resolution--not religious ones. This is why I got the impression I did. Religion is a factor. It's just doesn't appear to be the reason. (Again, I'm an outsider. I don't know anything for certain.)

103:

To outsiders (like most of the UK) it makes as much sense and Blues v Greens:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nika_riots

104:

That's what they are doing here. Not only are universities being taken over by managers (Whose aims and objectives vary from those of actual teachers and researchers, thus leading to a decrease in effectiveness in univerities {not that i've got real data, but there seems to be a lot of problems building up})
but the evil ConDems are selling off schoolchildren to corporations for a measly 8k. They are called studio schools, and allegedly combine work based training with learning. Each is of course run by a different employer.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-18892984

Frankly, if your school system is that bad that you need to start brainwashing children into work when they are 16 or under, and force them to work at minimum wage in their specialist vocation, then you're fucked. What this does is tie the worker ever closer into certain narrow working areas, taking away the wider outlook of education as a public good and substituting private goods instead.
It's basically another way of privatising schools through the back door, and removing any sort of local control over them.

"Oh, but British schools are crap" I hear lying bastards say. No more so than schools in other countries. And much of the failure is down to the divisive neoliberal policies in the first place, the same as the NHS was so comparatively rubbish int he 80's and 90's because they restricted spending on it. As soon as they actually started spending more money on it, lots of things improved.

The future that the neoliberal scum seem to envision for the UK is politics run by pressure groups, with worker drones funnelled into whatever low wage job is going, but because of the modern need for certificates to prove competence at everything, it'll be even harder to switch jobs. Meanwhile, ordinary people, lacking any sort of political representation beyond whatever pressure groups they have joined, will stop voting or vote increasingly for extremist party's. THe solvent power of money will be easily seen, but we seem to be lacking any modern equivalent of Marx or the labour unions to deal with it.

105:

Religion is a factor. It's just doesn't appear to be the reason.

Religious, political, geographic, economic, ethnic, nationalist, classist, and gender-political differences tend to get mushed together in most conflicts to form a sort of tribalism goulash. It's usually difficult to impossible to separate them.

106:

Again, I shall pop on my lifelong-NI-resident-and-Troubles-survivor hat, and firmly slam the door on the idea that the conflict in Ireland was religious -- labelling the sides Protestant and Catholic is nothin more than that: convenient labels. The roots of the Troubles and the wider conflict in Ireland through the 20th century are deep and complex (see my previous post about need to know a decent amount of detail about the last 1600 years of Irish history to really eat to grips with it).

I'd also like to take this opportunity to disassociate myself (and the majority of the NI population ) from the eejits currently protesting over flags, and where they are flown. There are still deep currents of bitterness and resentment in certain communities in NI, and seemingly minor events can still spark violence; but please bear in mind that the current protests are being carried out by approximately 0.001% (or less) of the population.

Finally, a wee quick note about the "Protestant/Catholic atheist" joke: Originally this tool the form of "Protestant/Catholic Jew", but that doesn't work any more since the loopers in NI decided to adopt sides in the Israel/Palestine conflict too (because we just don't have enough problems of our own!)

107:

Stina, Dave - #99 on. Thanks for the thoughts; I'd agree that The Troubles are not religious except on a very superficial level. I'm severalth generation Scottish, but with a real-World Irish surname and pleased to be at a (hopefully) safe distance.

108:

Last Action Hero was made (and set) in 1992. (I checked this in Wikipedia.) We can't blame Shrub for the school in it, and it only sprang to mind because Austin O'Brian's character was studying Hamlet in English Lit class in his "real life".

109:

As someone who self-identifies as androgynous, and has also known some male-to-female transsexuals, I can tell you why most men don't earn their "woman badge": It has the opposite effect that you observed. Whereas a woman who tries to understand masculinity is given respect and is seen as basically giving masculine culture an implied compliment, a man who acts feminine is seen as weak and a threat to the status of other men.

Very true, IMO.

110:

"It's basically another way of privatising schools through the back door, and removing any sort of local control over them."

I think privatising schools is a very bad idea. VERY. I have hope of it changing here (in the US) because I'm not the only one who sees this as a very bad problem.

111:

"Religious, political, geographic, economic, ethnic, nationalist, classist, and gender-political differences tend to get mushed together in most conflicts to form a sort of tribalism goulash. It's usually difficult to impossible to separate them."

Jay, we agree on that point.

112:

...but please bear in mind that the current protests are being carried out by approximately 0.001% (or less) of the population.

That's a relief to hear.

Finally, a wee quick note about the "Protestant/Catholic atheist" joke: Originally this tool the form of "Protestant/Catholic Jew", but that doesn't work any more since the loopers in NI decided to adopt sides in the Israel/Palestine conflict too (because we just don't have enough problems of our own!)

I noticed that.

113:

We can't blame Shrub for the school in it, and it only sprang to mind because Austin O'Brian's character was studying Hamlet in English Lit class in his "real life".

Sorry. I didn't mean to blame Shrub for that school. I meant to blame him for the current school system. Thanks for that.

114:

Ok; I don't really know a great deal about the current US school and exam system, but I do know another website where I'm in regular contact with USian teenagers and 20somethings. More research on my part needed.

Guthrie is talking about having businesses rather than government running the actual schools rather than setting the syllabus and exams though.

115:

My comment has nothing to do with gender (I am a white male in the middle class with poor social skills, and so I would not like to in any way indicate that I have a nuanced understanding of gender politics or anything like that). Instead, it has to do with tabletop gaming.

In my younger years (read: prior to my high school graduation) I was not very social or sociable at all. For five or six years I've wanted to learn to play D&D, and to play with a group. As a DM, could you give me some general tips? Like, how big should my group be? Should I try to find someone who has played before to DM, or is it safe for me to try to do it myself? If nobody in the group has played before, what edition should we try to use? (A bunch of similarly non-social people are now my friends, and they want to try playing too. Somehow, I didn't meet any such people back when I was busy trying to avoid meeting people.)

116:

Your para 2, with the note that my comments reflect my experience and what's easily available:-

Best group size 3 to 6 players; 1 or 2 and you're heading for solo quests or effectively a tabletop game with no pieces and the odds stacked in favour of the DM who can always decide that if he really wants to kill the character he'll just ambush them with a platoon of orcs!
7 or more players and you run the risk of someone just sitting in a corner and getting ignored.

My first group (I'm afraid you'll need to read this entire thread and maybe some of the others for more on them) were all beginning players with no experienced DM, but we did start out by using commercially available scenarios.

Version - Comments about "Red Box D&D", "Black Box Traveller" and the like refer to versions of the systems that were available new in the late 1970s/early 1980s. The present version of AD&D is version 4.0, but v5.0 is apparently in development.

What you'll need to get started - At least one copy of the Player's Handbook (one each would maybe be good, but is far from essential), one copy of the DM's guide, one copy of the Monster Manual, and a beginner's scenario pack, probably marked something like "for character levels 1 through 3 (or maybe 1..5), at least one full set of polyhedral dice (4, 6, 8, 2 x 10 and distinctive from each other say by 1 being red and the other blue and 20 sided). You need the 2 distinctive 10 siders so you can makes rolls range 1 to 100.

117:

What Paws said about group size, yes.

If anyone has played an RPG before, you might as well use whatever rules set they're comfortable with. You do NOT need to worry about what's up-to-date; in fact, small and simple rules will be better for beginning players. (You might want to pick up a rules-light game such as Savage Worlds rather than name-brand Dungeons & Dragons. It's up to you.) If someone's already got some game books laying around, problem solved!

Starting from scratch, you should all get together and try to figure out what kind of game you want. This is similar to, but not exactly like, roughing out a plot for a collaborative book. Many of us have done a dungeon crawl (go through a limited space, encounter monsters, have fights, loot anything you find). This is a very simple game and hardly counts as a story, but it's easy on the DM and gets you used to the combat system; you might want to do that at least once or twice for practice. It will probably take a few tries before the group works out what everyone really wants to do and how to make it happen; this comes with practice.

If you don't already have a group who wants to get into this, ask around. Maybe you know someone who's already gaming. Find a local game store or two. And if you go to any SF conventions there should be organized gaming rooms where you can try whatever sounds fun.

118:

Thanks Scott, you've reminded me of some other points:-

1) Post #($this - 2) presumes that you have no existing materials, can't buy second-hand, and want something that can be picked up fairly easily. Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) D20 system (the system applies across multiple games in different periods) is not the best system out there, but it is easy to learn.

2) Yes, a dungeon-bash or 2 are a good way to get started. I'd suggest letting gold, artefacts and half experience accrue to the player rather than the character whilst everyone sorts out whether they'd rather play a half-orc druid-thief split class or a full human fighter-necromancer (the split classes are for illustration of possibilities only; I don't recommend either full or half-orc, or fighter-necromancer as an actual character unless everyone wants to play orcs or dark elves).

3) Local games stores will be happy to hook you up with games clubs and groups; people like you and them are the ones who pay their bills.

4) Don't feel awkward about going to convention games rooms and asking what's happening. Gaming is a "social activity" for values of "social activity" that mean that you want to meet and play games with other gamers, rather than values that mean you all go out to watch $professional_sport every weekend and then go and get drunk together.

119:

Years ago, Shrub set up an initiative called "No Child Left Behind" because inner city schools weren't getting enough funding, and thus, were falling behind other areas of the country in education. Instead of giving the schools the money they needed to do the job right, Shrub gave corporations the money to devise a testing system that would assure that everyone got the same amount of education. (Supposedly.) Because the problem wasn't the money. It was the teachers. [rolls eyes] If a school's students didn't pass the exams, the school didn't get government funding. Because punishment gets so much better results than encouragement--NOT. The result? Corporations responsible for providing tests came up with several new exams in order to create a market for themselves.

The magic Captialism Fairy(tm) does not solve all problems. Hello.

All of my information comes from my sister and her friends who are teachers. It's pretty messed up. There is a movement in Texas that wants to not have government provided schools at all and teach everyone at home via programs on the computer provided by corporations. Holy crap, what a horrible idea! I don't know much about your situation over there, but that sounds related to your corporate take over of schools. Either way... corporations running schools? Very BAD idea. Best case? They'll train workers not thinkers or creatives. Worse case? They'll fail at training workers because training costs too much. Corporations are not altruistic entities. They work for profit. Profit and human interests do conflict.

I simply do not understand this urge to cut programs that clearly have proven to be for the best interests of the nation like education.

120:

My take on it is that education is an easy target. There are so many people in the population who simply don't care what happens in the public or state school system, including the people making the decision to cut funding and monkey with the system (particulary, since their own offspring are often not *in* the state system).

121:

"As a DM, could you give me some general tips? Like, how big should my group be? Should I try to find someone who has played before to DM, or is it safe for me to try to do it myself? If nobody in the group has played before, what edition should we try to use?"

Cool! Sure! I'm happy to help. First, no experience is required to run a D&D group. It might take you a while to get everything smoothed out, but you can learn as you go. I'd start with 4th edition. It has the most game mechanics in common with computer RPGs -- something you and your players are probably familiar with. You might want to start with what we used to call "canned" adventures. (That is, adventures that are pre-planned for you.) While they tend to be pretty simplistic story-wise they'll give you a really great background on what it takes to plan an adventure. As for the number of players? I wouldn't go more than five or less than three. While I have run games for as many as twenty players, I really wouldn't recommend it. Combat is pretty detailed (even now) and it bogs down when more than five people are playing.

I hope that helps. Feel free to look me up on twitter or FB if you have more questions. Have fun! Above all, remember that there are all kinds of ways to run D&D. You can be a rules heavy DM or a story heavy DM or a combination of both. No one will judge you. (And if they do, ignore them.)

122:

(particulary, since their own offspring are often not *in* the state system).

True. So very true.

123:

Change the names of the actors, and ignore the bit about corporate entities creating the syllabus and exams, and this sounds quite horribly familiar over here too.

124:

Are you thinking of any posh boys that by accident of parental choices you happen to share a first name with in particular here? ;-)

125:

No idea what you mean there, paws old chap!

I was thinking in particular about the ongoing attempt of politicains in NI to turn our education system into an utter clusterfuck. As you probably know, we dodged the "comprehensive" bullet back when it was inflicted on the rest of the UK, and retained the 11-Plus exam (it wasn't perfect, but it worked tolerably); a few years ago the Education Minister in the NI Assembly decided to go ahead with plans to scrap the 11-Plus but without any clear plans on what system to replace it with -- we kept the split level grammar and secondary school system, but now there was no official test to determine a pupil's level of ability. A number of grammar schools panicked, as they were looking down the barrel of a solely catchment-area based entrance criteria, and they weren't in, shall we say, great areas (through accidents of shifting population demographics over the last 50 - 100 years); so the grammar schools decided to adopt a new test to determine eligability, except the CCMS (Catholic Church run/associated) schools adopted one exam, and the non-Catholic schools another, both with several papers. So now the kids still need to do at least one set of exams, or two if they want to keep all options open; they have to do these tests in the schools they want to attend, not in their one primary school; and they have no standardised prepartion process through years six and seven in primary school.

What really got my goat about this, is that the minister who decided on scrapping the 11-plus and causing this mess, sends *her* kids to school in The Republic of Ireland "for political and cultural reasons".

126:

Ah; that's a completely other clusterfvck from the one I was thinking of. The one I was thinking of was probably reported on the BBC "national"* news though.

*for values of national meaning "about England only, never mind that we don't report similar stories about NI, Scotland or Wales except in the 'regional news' programmes".

127:

I have been peripherally watching the ongoing attempts by the Rubber-Faced One (seriously, he does looked like a badly molded action figure!) and his government to further arse things completely up in Engalnd's education system.

128:

I find myself wondering whether Posh Boy et al are attempting to dismantle the Welfare State and English education system because they don't care, or because they think that if they can clusterfvck it up badly enough Scotland will vote for independence, and then they'll have a built-in majority for evermore or near enough.

129:

I think it's even worse than that.

I think they're doing it because they actually think it's the best thing to do :-(

130:

There's nothing more terrifying than a true believer!

131:

"What really got my goat about this, is that the minister who decided on scrapping the 11-plus and causing this mess, sends *her* kids to school in The Republic of Ireland "for political and cultural reasons"."

[bangs head on desk]

132:

"There's nothing more terrifying than a true believer!"

Absolutely.

133:

As far as I can tell, Adrian Howard #129 is correct.
What makes it easier for them is the last 30 years of centralisation of power, destruction of alternative political outlets and possible roadblocks such as unions, and the increased specialisation over that time.
And of course our undemocratic system, and a lib-dem party that sold itself out for a whiff of power.

Dave the proc #120 - I would rather say that most people, having other things to do with their lives, can be persuaded by appropriate phrases and PR that what is planned is for the better, especially since the right wing has such a predominance in the media and have been feeding their poisonous and wrong ideas to the public for decades now. It's not that they don't care, it's that they lack sufficient information and time to act on such information to actually make a difference. Although I suppose if properly educated many might still not agree with us, I'm sure that most would change their minds, the problem is how to reach them when we have 3 economically right wing sell off public service party's at Westminster.

Paws4thought #114 - the important thing to note, apart from the academy program overspending by ONE BIllion DOLLARS! Mwahahahaha!!! is that they are centrally controlled and run. Which means more staff at the centre, probably less oversite overall (Steiner schools somehow manage to pass inspections, despite operating on some very dodgy ideas) and less local control or involvement. This is of course a continuation of the last century or two of centralisation.

134:

Patrick Moore did not belong to any "us" I want to be a part of. The man was overtly connected to and campaigning for right-wing racist and anti-immigration political parties since at least the 1970s. I'm sorry if you valued him for other reasons but I just can't look past something I find so objectionable.

135:

There's a nice write up by Martha Henson of her personal encounter with Patrick Moore. It ended with this:

"We sometimes forget that people in the public eye are as nuanced, messy and complicated as any of the rest of us, and we shouldn’t expect them to be otherwise. We can be grateful for Patrick Moore’s kindness and great work in popularising astronomy and angry about his views at the same time."http://marthasadie.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/an-encounter-with-patrick-moore-people-are-complicated/
136:

@ 134
NO
Apart from Adrian Howard's comment, which I fully support.
ONE: There is NO evidence that UKIP are racist, unless, of course, you are a social wanker in Rotherham, or a member of any other political party, indulging in smears.
I won't go near them, because they do appear to be a bit christian, but that's another story.
TWO: Moore's experiences in WWII made him want no part in the EU, even when it was set up, for (to him) good reasons.

137:

Point (2) - This seems odd to me, because one of the planned objectives of the then EEC was to tie the economies of France and Germany together sufficiently closely that they could never go to war with each other again.

138:

Given Gerry Adams' admitted his personal theology was more Protestant than Catholic in an interview with Gay Byrne... (this one; the interview itself is apparently not available online, which is a pity.)

139:

paws
Agreed, but I heard him, many years ago, on this subject. I thought him wrong, but I could see why he felt that way.
Of course, since then (in my opinion) the EU has changed agains, so that someone like me, who voted "in" enthusiastically in 1973, now wants "out" ... for both financial & bureaucratic & democratic reasons.

140:

I wasn't disputing the voracity of your statement, just surprised by his views.

Also, I've got issues with some of the EU's feature creep too.

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This page contains a single entry by Stina Leicht published on December 8, 2012 6:20 PM.

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