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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Institutionalized or Not, A Duck is a Duck

     Picking up the ball and running with points made in a recent post by our lovely Overlord Erin, I'd like to throw a few words at the screen on the topic of racism and generalizations. One of the favorite go-to's of the Social Justice Warrior is to claim that anyone in a social minority (that word itself being a difficult one to define, as women are considered a minority, and yet make up roughly 50% of the population pretty much everywhere short of a few outliers – seriously Oman, Qatar? What's up with that?) cannot be racist/sexist/etc. How can this be, you ask? How can someone literally not hold a certain type of attitude? Are they some ascended being of higher enlightenment? Possibly a lower life-form incapable of such thought? Of course not.

     Well, here's where things get interesting. A lot of current Social Justice language originated in Academia, and thus even out in the real world the proponents of these ideologies tend to persist in the usage of this language. Even in situations where it doesn't apply. To them, there is no such thing as just plain old racism, for example. The only racism that exists, or at least that matters, is institutionalized racism. This is where existing political or governmental systems can seem or even actually be stacked against a person or persons of a certain ethnicity or sex. Regardless of how they came to be or the reasoning behind these appearances, such things exist. The black population in the prison system is far higher than white population. It's difficult for trans-individuals to have their gender identity recognized. All valid examples.

     The problem happens when a person of this mindset refuses to believe that individual racism exists, or can be anything significant. The same people who will call out a fallacy of relative privation when addressing the standards of living for women in the western world versus those in the middle east will steadfastly refuse to believe that someone who is not a minority can be discriminated against, or cannot be discriminated against to a degree that will significantly impact them. Just because you feel someone's plight isn't relevant doesn't mean it isn't relevant to them. Human beings, in all their diversity, are built from the same chemical building blocks on the same basic template. To suggest that someone is incapable of holding discriminatory beliefs is to strip them of a part of their humanity, even if that's an unpleasant part to imagine of them. Humans deserve to be considered capable of both good and bad acts.

     The most amusing part of this mindset that I've seen is where they will unconsciously be racist themselves by lumping together many nationalities and ethnicities, assuming them to be one pure, innocent whole, and ignoring cultural attitudes like Korean anti-Japanese racism (and vice-versa), tribal/ethnic conflicts in various parts of Africa, or how North-East Indians are discriminated against by other parts of India due to having more Asian features. The world is full of diverse and beautiful people who are flawed, complicated, and cannot be generalized with one broad sweep, regardless of how noble you think your intentions may be. **coughtumblrcough**

     So while your Sociology 101 course may teach you all about cultural oppression (believe me, I've taken the course), and your academic definitions may work for some situations, they don't work for all situations. The world is a lot more complex than slapping labels on things and tweeting a hashtag. Generally, what we can do as individuals is remember to never be an asshole to someone based on the circumstance of their birth, and never forget that people are capable of being assholes to one another based on the circumstance of their birth. I openly admit to being an asshole, but generally I'm only an asshole to people based upon merit.

     I feel this really should end with a musical number. Lighten the mood and all that.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

[AFHOTWTTGS] Doctor Who RPG Reviews

Every once in a while, the stars align and my nerd interests correlate in a moment of glorious synchronicity. Some kind-hearted soul saw fit to provide me with access to FASA's mid-Eighties Doctor Who RPG; like me, it was born during the terrible year of 1985, in which Colin Baker was taken off the air for perceived crimes against television (and one day, when I'm sufficiently drunk or cross, I shall regale you all with my explanation of how this accusation is both one hundred per cent true and absolute codswallop), and like me, it manages to combine a fundamental sense of elegance with a tendency toward rambling on unnecessarily.

I laid my paws on it at the implied request of a Mage player; we'll call this person Khaos, since all the cool kids use pseudonyms around here (I'm assuming Salem is either using a pseudonym or not cool). Khaos essentially wants to play a Time Lord, let's not mince words here, and their excitingly fizzy brain tends to disgorge thoughts about Doctor Who at roundabout the same rate as most people's autonomic functions. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that while Mage is still on the cards, the impression was given that a Who RPG would be a fitting follow-up... and so I promptly acquired the FASA book, had a read through, scratched my head, and looked up the other forms of roleplaying in the Whoniverse to see what they had to offer.

Over the next month I'll be talking about each of them in turn, and trying to playtest each one to boot. There'll doubtless be some dribble about the adventure design and GM style wrapped around it, but essentially we're looking at the system as a means of enabling a game. I might round up by cooing over some Doctor Who miniatures for those who like their square paper and playing with toys.

I'll also be eliciting input from my players, as is generally the way with my reviews. Khaos' comments will appear in Prydonian red; Erin's in Arcalian green; Hark's in the ghastly heliotrope of the Patrexes.

This post is going to serve as the index to the whole affair:

  • The Doctor Who Role Playing Game (FASA, 1985)
  • Time Lord (Virgin, 1991)
  • Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space (Cubicle 7, 2012)
  • Miniatures... if you like that sort of thing.
Forgive the slight brevity of this instalment; I'm on holiday and off the grid. Normal service will resume next Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why I Hate Traveller 5 In One Easy Concept

It's the return of Traveller Tuesday!




Most of you know that I and several confederates savaged the Traveller5 rules last year. Perhaps some of you (I'm looking at you, Faoladh) felt I was being unfair in my assessment of it.  At this point, I believe I wasn't harsh enough, and will explain how I came to this conclusion.

T5 introduces the concept of Extensions for planetary systems. Those Extensions are listed as Importance, Economic, and Cultural.  A picture is included for the Kinorb system from The Traveller Map as an example of how they are used. (and that's why I am ranting about T5 again; I use the Traveller Map quite a lot in my game, and when I saw these odd numbers crop up I needed to know what they meant.)



I will explain these extensions, using the definitions within the game itself, and you can actually see the point where this data stops being useful and is simply an exercise in mathematical masturbation.



This is an example of a useful bit of data. It explains what the extension is and what the numbers mean. You have to read eight pages ahead to find out how to calculate it, but it's an easy case of  "+1 if this, -1 if that"; for example, a Starport of class A or B merits a +1, and Starports of D or worse earn a -1. Add up the values, and if it's 4 or more, it's an important world. That's a good thing to know both data-wise and as background information for role-playing, aka "fluff". I can use this extension, and therefore I like it.



Oh-kay then. I'm not really sure why I'd need to calculate this (and yes, there are calculations involved, this is T5 after all); between Importance and various trade codes (rich, industrial, hi-tech, etc) I can probably figure out if this planet is an economic powerhouse or not, which is really all I'd need for a typical game of Traveller. Maybe I'd need this if the PCs were playing planetary rulers and the planet was theirs to administer (in which case it's a Traveller-themed version of Birthright, but hey, I wrote a game where you can play pre-pubescent talking ponies, so who am I to judge?), but in general I don't need to know (after calculating) the numbers for Resources, Labor, Infrastructure and Efficiency, and then multiply those to get its Resource Units -- in other words, its budget.


And that's all it says on p 427, the same page as the other entries I'm quoting. That's literally all it says about culture. Full stop.

Eight pages later, you get a bit more detail:


There's quite literally nothing further said about it. Not in the main book and not in the errata. Can you see what's missing?

Let's look at the Cx entry for Kinorb again:


What in God's name does any of this MEAN? There's no explanation anywhere in the book. Is a 6 in Symbols a good thing or a bad thing?  Is this culture very homogeneous, or is it very non-homogeneous? And while I see the lowest bound is a 1, what's the high end?

This tells me NOTHING. What's worse is that this is information I could really use: Traveller, at least the way I play it, is about voyaging to exotic locations and getting into trouble with the local inhabitants. Knowing if this is a planet full of superstitious racists is critical, gameable data.

I distinctly get the feeling I am being trolled.

Well done, Marc Miller. I mean it; golf applause all round. You can micromanage the GDP of a planet, but you can't be bothered to tell me anything useful about the people who live there. You've actually managed to transcend George Lucas and have become the RPG publishing equivalent of a cocktease.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Things I Won't Countenance

Okay, ranty time.

People who follow me on Facebook (and, to a lesser extent, read the comments on posts here) probably know that I'll tolerate a lot of bad behavior. I know full well that I take thing personally -- perhaps more personally than they are intended -- and so my guidelines pretty much boil down to "You can disagree with me all you want, you can dislike me all you want, you can even refuse to accept my arguments, but the moment you start insulting me, we're finished."

I'm even going to go a step further and clarify this:  If, while disagreeing with me, you call me blind or stupid or irrational, I will let that slide because I have probably been guilty of expressing a similar sentiment.

So that said, there are some attitudes prevalent on the internet that I regard as such a slap in the face that they're pretty much conversation-killers and friendship-enders.


1)  All men are rapists/ All women are victims

I'm not even going to get into the whole "rape culture" scrum, although you can probably guess what my feelings are about it. No, my biggest problem with this line of thinking is that not only does it unjustly criminalize an entire gender -- "All men have penises, and penises are used to rape," goes the 'logic', "so therefore all men are rapists" -- but it also removes agency (in the philosophical sense) from the female gender.

Claiming that "The way to end rape is to teach boys not to rape" is akin to saying "Women are utterly unable to defend themselves against rape, and therefore must rely on the goodwill of men not to rape them."

Sorry, no. I don't buy that for a second. I'm enough of a feminist to believe that women are perfectly capable of defending themselves against rape, and while of course it is a good and worthwhile thing to teach our male children good manners (especially regarding "drunk doesn't mean consenting" as they approach college), it's also equally incumbent upon us to teach our female children how to avoid situations where they are vulnerable.
I particularly hate it when proponents of this theory trot out the hoary old "A woman should be able to dance naked at a party full of men and not be afraid of rape."  Well, yes, and I should be able to walk through the roughest parts of town with money sticking out of my pockets and not be afraid of someone robbing me, but -- NEWS FLASH! -- the world doesn't work like that.  If it did, we could simply tell our children "Killing people is bad, mmkay?" and end our nation's murder problem within a generation.

Humans are predators. We aren't going to change millions of years of evolution with a few thousand years of civilization.


2)  All [Race/Nationality/Religion] are [this horrible thing]

I'm perfectly okay with people loathing me because they find some aspect of my personality or lifestyle loathesome. I won't necessarily like it, mind you -- my attitude is likely to be "Screw those judgemental assholes" -- but I'll respect their right to that opinion and take comfort in the fact that their dislike of me is based on something I did, and therefore to some extent I deserve their distaste.

However, I go absolutely bugnuts with anger whenever someone hates me because of something over which I have no control. Saying "Of course you'd think that, you're white" is just as goddamn racist as "Of course you'd think that, you're black."

Which isn't to say that discussions about privilege, as tiresome as they can be, don't have a place within our society. But, more often than not, those discussions (usually on Tumblr, the Mos Eisley of the Internet) turn into "If you don't agree with me, I will insult and harass you until you go away."

For more on this topic I direct you to some people who have written far more and far better on the subject: co-blogger Salem MacGourleythis fellow right here, and this lady here.


3) All Gun Owners are Law Abiding (Until They're Not)

And today, this happened, which is what triggered this rant. Someone who I thought was my friend quite literally told me "And so many gun owners are law abiding, responsible and trained, until they're not." I took great and immediate exception to this. At the risk of being pedantic, I shall explain why:
  • His statement essentially says "Many, if not all gun owners, are untrained and irresponsible and criminals waiting to happen."  
  • I am a gun owner, and he knows it.
  • Therefore, he is accusing me of being at least potentially untrained (which is provably false, as my range reports show),  irresponsible (I have been carrying for over 2 years now and not only have I not shot anyone or had a negligent discharge, I haven't even felt the need to draw my pistol) and law-breaking (I haven't gotten so much as a speeding ticket since I started carrying). 
  • This loops around to my first point. "All gun owners are law abiding... until they're not" is factually the same as "All men aren't rapists... until they rape" or "All women aren't whores... until they prostitute themselves."
  • I'm pretty sure this is a variation on the One True Scotsman logical fallacy, i.e., "Only people without guns can be considered law-abiding, and any law-abiding gun owner clearly is a criminal just waiting to happen, so therefore they aren't law-abiding." 
It's lazy thinking and it's infuriating and it's WRONG. The arguer is essentially asking me to simultaneously prove a negative ("Prove you aren't a criminal")  and prove something in the future ("Prove, today, that you aren't going to do something wrong in the future")  before I'm allowed to exercise my Constitutionally-enumerated right. 


It's like saying "All bloggers don't commit libel and/or plagiarism... until they do. Prove you aren't a plagiarist or libeller, and prove you aren't going to do so in the future, before you can own a blog."

I swear, the next time someone uses this line in a debate I'm going to reply with "And you aren't a pedophile... until you are."  Yes, it's a cheap shot, but if I'm in a fight and someone goes for my eyes, I'm definitely kneeing them in the crotch.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

HO. LEE. CRAP.

Someone pinch me, I must be dreaming:
In light of Heller, McDonald, and their progeny, there is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny. Therefore, the Court finds that the District of Columbia’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional. Accordingly, the Court grants Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and enjoins Defendants from enforcing the home limitations of D.C. Code § 7-2502.02(a)(4) and enforcing D.C. Code § 22-4504(a) unless and until such time as the District of Columbia adopts a licensing mechanism consistent with constitutional standards enabling people to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms.4 Furthermore, this injunction prohibits the District from completely banning the carrying of handguns in public for self-defense by otherwise qualified non-residents based solely on the fact that they are not residents of the District.

Alan Gura did it again.  I never thought I'd see the day that handgun carry became legal in D.C.

I do especially like the addendum of "Oh, by the way, you HAVE to recognize the rights of non-residents to carry as well." That's a lovely bit of boot-in, that is, and having lived in the DC metro area, it's a big deal. Hardly anyone who works in DC actually lives there; they live in MD or VA instead. Reducing it to "residents only" would have denied rights to -- oh, let's say 75% of the people who are in the District during the working day.


You can read the opinion in PDF form here.


Hat Tip to Joe Huffman for the link.

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