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Ben Lehman
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Ben Lehman

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ASAN is holding a vigil for disabled children who have been murdered by their caretakers in the past year.

Link to some prepared remarks. Predictably, it's very sad.

Ben Lehman

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So I meant to share this yesterday, but got distracted.

There's been a lot of conversation recently around diversity in the games industry, and several all-calls for diverse applicants by major game companies like Paizo, Onyx Path, Pelgrane, and Evil Hat. Which I totally support and welcome!

But it's important to me that we also look at the other option here: self-publishing. Because it seems like the message that's getting sent is that women and minorities NEED permission or "help" to get into publishing, and with modern self-publishing tools that's just not true!

So this is the first part in a 2 part series written from my perspective as someone who has done freelancing AND self-publishing, about how and why to think about starting self-publishing.
Before we get started Lately, the issue of women and minorities in game design and development has been a topic of conversation in indie tabletop circles. I recently wrote about the dustup that hap...
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Jupiter Ascending is really good you should all go see it.

The premise is absurd, but it's extremely pretty (Space has colors! For once!) and just amazingly fun.

It is almost exactly like the RPGs I played as a teenager, down to the point where I can tell you who played which character.
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From the previews, it looked like a fair chunk of A Distant Soil.
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Apropos of the last post, if you feel like you lack resources, both in cash and expertise, for your work, Different Play is a great source for them. You can totally do it on your own, but if you need that leg up, we can help there, too.
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On the release of 50 Shades of Grey, I would like to take the opportunity to encourage everyone who writes fanfic, particularly AU fanfic, to file the serial numbers off that shit and publish it.

This has been an announcement.
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Jolin Tsai's gay marriage music video, in case you feel like crying today.
(It's really good.)
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I cried even seeing what was coming.
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You are all more than you think you can be.

Love you all.

Good night.
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For years, parents have been told to withhold peanuts from their children until the age of three, to prevent the onset of dangerous peanut allergies. A landmark study is now throwing this conventional wisdom on its head, instead suggesting that most peanut allergies can be staved off by introducing peanuts to children early.
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Some food allergies come about due to cross reactions with pollen or other airborne allergens, so both the commonality of foods and the commonality of pollinating plants in the area can play a part. For instance I have a food allergy that is likely due to a severe pollen allergy. You don't inherit allergies per se, but the tendency to develop them, so will develop allergies to foods you commonly eat. Health conditions such as celiac disease can make developing food allergy much more likely. Some foods are more likely to be allergenic than others, and when allergenic more likely to cause lethal anaphylaxis, so both the EU and the US have a short list of the most likely to be deadly foods, which are required to be labeled.

Food allergies and other autoimmune disorders are also becoming more common in industrialized countries, and while there are many theories as to why, the cause for the link is still not definitively known, though it's obvious that it exists.
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Some back of the envelope math about Jupiter Ascending's horrifying space capitalism.

Contains spoilers for Jupiter Ascending.

So youth-fluid is made out of people, and a tube of youth fluid is made out of ~100 people. Let's say that that gives you an extra ordinary lifespan: 100 years. Of course, rich people like the Abrasaxes can afford to fritter it away looking young all the time, but generally speaking, let's imagine 1 tube = 100 years. Which gives a very nice 1 person per year conversion rate.

Earth's population is expected to peak around 10 billion. Humans have been around for a million years. Thus, the million year investment returns 10 billion years of life. Of course, you also have to pay for your equipment and employees and so on.

I cannot imagine that this is a setting where most people are getting paid enough, in a year, to buy a year's worth of rejuvenation, quite simply because there are lots of mercenaries and warriors, and if honest work paid enough for effective immortality, I don't think that there'd be many people willing to risk their lives for a score. I imagine "do you make enough in a year to extend your life one year" is the dividing line between the masses and the "middle class", so about 80% of the population is below that. (The elite and super-elite, of course, are in a world of their own.) So assuming that paying people 1 year of life / year of work is assuming that you are paying them pretty well.

Through most of history, you really don't need a large staff overseeing your planet. You need a small number of Greys to discourage poachers, but they don't really even need to be able to defend it, just radio for help. Probably they also have the job of overseeing the ecology and just making sure nothing hunts humans to extinction, but all of this is not hard. A staff of 50 is probably overkill. If you're overpaying them, then that's only 50 million over the course of the project, a drop in the bucket compared to your 10 billion payday. And I imagine that this is actually what, like, college students do for their internships: i.e. low paid scut work for people looking to move up.

You also need someone with actual skills to come by once every 10,000 years or so and report on the local evolution, but that's minor.

There's also the end-run costs of controlling society and technology and the harvest itself but those are only the last ~200 years and so are pretty negligible. The harvesting apparatus looks expensive, but it's implied to be portable, as are the staff, who presumably move from harvesting operation to harvesting operation with regularity.

Altogether, the costs can't amount to much more than 200 million years of life, for a 10 billion payout. Not bad.

Sidenote: Earth is described as more valuable than most planets, I assume because of its size and fecundity. But even assuming that most planets produce an order of magnitude smaller harvest (1 billion) it still works out rather well, particularly because the fixed costs will be comparatively lower. Of course, the Abrasax sister does mention that Earth is "more valuable than all the other planets that [Wheezy Abrasax] owns" but I assume that's because Jupiter is on it, not because of its size or population.

Sidenote 2: There's an argument that sustainable harvest would be better than the clearcut system, but I think that that ignores that the clearcut system requires basically no maintenance for over 99% of the process. Also, a sustainable harvest has a moral hazard in that you might start to see the people as people. Also also, this trust that capitalism will manage a valuable resource sustainably which: LOL.

Now, the next question is: How many planets are they doing this to? To keep a regular supply of rejuvenation drug, presumably at least a million, which would generate a harvest every year. But first let's look at the Abrasaxes. How many planets do they, personally, own?

Handsome Abrasax Brother is described as basically bankrupt. For someone bankrupt he has an awful lot of servants and ships, some of which can be assumed to be on credit, but this includes four planets. So, for the aristocracy, "four planets" is basically bankrupt.

Let's assume that, in terms of our society, this is enough to live comfortable and richly forever, but not enough to matter in the investment world. Let's say $2 million.

Wheezy Abrasax Brother, on the contrary, is described as the richest man in space. Let's say that this is equivalent to the biggest megabillionaires of today, so roughly 70 billion. That would mean, if income inequality scales to the modern world, that he has roughly on the order of 140,000 planets.

(Of course, income inequality probably doesn't scale to the modern world. The society of Jupiter Rising is probably much more unequal, but, eh. This works.)

Now, the Abrasax are portrayed as an important bunch of people, kings and queens, but they're still subject to the law, not making it. So we can imagine that their wealth, as impressive as it is, is not the entire space economy. They're elite, but not "I am the state" sorts. Let's keep with our metaphor of the world economy, and say that Wheezy Abrasax Brother contributes about .1% of the economy, roughly equivalent to the wealthiest people today. That would mean that there's something on the order of 140 million seeded planets, which means 140 harvests a year. That seems pretty in keeping with the movie: this is a big deal, but not a big enough deal that one harvest is make or break for the whole economic system.

The interesting thing, though, is that harvests are infrequent enough that individuals, even effectively immortal ones, won't live to see the pay off. Abrasax Mom lived for 91,000 years, which is a small fraction of the harvest time. So I imagine that most of the dealings are in futures and derivatives, and "ownership" of planets isn't passed on in a single family, but rather passed to specialist companies in each stage (i.e. there are seeding companies, development companies, oversight companies, harvest companies, each holding a piece of the future harvest, which they trade on an open market.) Less feudal lords and more genocide-backed derivatives.
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That might be why they had to wait so long after the dinosaurs, so that the technological artifacts would have time to decay.  (And giving your crop a nice source of fossil fuels is also good.)
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Ben Lehman

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How to play 50 Shades of Grey, the role-playing game.

Use Hot Guys Making Out.

Instead of Honoré, it's Christian Grey.
Instead of Gonsalvo, it's Anastasia. Her Moment of Passion is triggered by queens, not jacks.
(Replace Maria and Olivier with side characters IDK.)

Threats are all internal to the characters and mostly emotional, rather than external.
Hot Guys Making Out is about the relationship between Honoré, a former nobleman, and Gonsalvo, his ward. They are both totally gorgeous and have the hots for each other. Also pretty often there are other people trying to kill them. It is set in a remote village in the Pyrenees during the Spanish ...
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Ah, no doubt. That makes more sense. I was presuming it was advanced to a later stage in the relationship, and you could use HGMO to simulate some cultural(species?) differences.
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Ben Lehman

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Dear new women and PoC RPG designers --

There's been a lot of work recently on clearing the pathways for marginalized folks into freelancing, which is great! But, before you dive into freelancing, please consider if your time and effort might be better spent on your own independent work, both in terms of money and artistic satisfaction.

I can't answer this for you. Only you can know what's right for you. But just understand that there is more than one path to success in RPG writing.

Here's my pitch:

Independent publishing is super accessible, cheap, and almost always pays better than freelancing. I, or a lot of other people, are here to help you through the process of designing, writing, testing, publishing, and marketing. It's also really rewarding to see your own creative vision through from beginning to end.

Your vision is unique and it deserves time and attention. You do not need any publishing company to make your work legitimate or to make you a real RPG designer: it already is; you already are.

Regardless of what path(s) you choose -- and you don't have to be limited to one; you can always start one way and change gears or do both at once -- we're here to help. And, when you're done, please let us know about your work, so we can give you money for it.

Thanks for your time.


P.S. While independent design doesn't, and can't, have a mentoring program: here's a (non-exclusive) list of some people who've told me that they'd specifically welcome and mentor novice women and PoC designers: Emily Care Boss, Vincent Baker, Epidiah Ravachol, Julia Ellingboe, Meguey Baker, Joshua Newman, and Jessica Hammer.
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+Jonas Richter Yup! I also plugged them in the next post.
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Ben Lehman

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I have been using Google Inbox (Google's new interface for Gmail) for a while now and it is fantastic. I would recommend it to anyone with inbox > 1,000 troubles.

It may still be invite only? If so, happy to provide.
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invite me too!
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In his circles
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