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Jade Harris
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I really like my outsiders to be strange little creatures with a classical flavor like this. I love this monster write-up.

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"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so." - Anton Ego, Food Critic, Ratatouille

So, I've been talking in hints about relaunching The Angry DM's website next month. I let the thing go fallow for nearly nine months and even when I was doing it, I was doing it only haphazardly. Without a real plan. And seriously, without knowing what I was really doing.

Part of the reason I fell off was because of a series of increasingly serious health problems. But I also had become more and more acerbic, venomous, and critical. Basically, I had gotten comfortable being a critic. And critics don't really risk anything. 

Creativity involves risk. Real risk. You put yourself out there, you put your ideas out there, you strip your brain nude and show it off for the world. People will like it, people will hate it, people will criticize it and insult it. You will get insulted, harassed, and suffer really vile behavior. I know, I have. But that's the price of creative endeavors. Being a critic is the safe path. 

+TotalBiscuit, The Cynical Brit said the same thing recently criticizing a particularly vitriolic and insane video game "journalist." And that is why I respect the Cynical Brit. Because, whatever he has to say about things, he always says it from a position of respect. He respects that creativity involves risk and perseverance and perspiration. And no matter how good or bad the execution, you can't forget the effort and risk involved.

I've forgotten that. I've also forgotten that at heart, I am not a critic, I am a creator. Sure, I create piddly little rules hacks and maps and adventures and advice. And sure I do analyze, but I have always analyzed from a position of finding gaps that needed filling so I could fill them. This is why I've always shied away from doing product reviews. At heart, I'm not a reviewer. I'm a tinkerer. I'm a maker. 

And if you want to call yourself a creator, you need to actually create. I stopped creating. And worse, I let a series of pretty simple obstacles get in the way of taking my creations to the next level. Well, I looked at myself and said it's time to shit or get off the pot. Either I am going to do this, do this right, do this with a plan, or I'm going to shut the thing down and stop pouring money into it. 

So, the relaunch of The Angry DM website is coming on April 1st. It will include a weekly content schedule. And that content will focus on the two things I do well, on the two things that are my niche. First, teaching GMs to write and run great games, especially newer GMs. Second, on tinkering, fiddling with, and hacking the hell out of games. I won't be publishing anymore screeds against companies or ranting that X or Y is doing it wrong or any of that other bullshit. I've got a few other things in the works and I'll gradually be announcing them. I'm going to ramp the schedule up slowly to see what I can keep up with. I've still got the day job that pays for all the games and shit. 

I am not announcing a Patreon or anything like that. My content on the website will ALWAYS be free and it will ALWAYS be free of paid advertising. That's my personal decision and not a slight against any who decides to do it differently. That doesn't mean I won't be selling things eventually (hopefully, sooner rather than later, if I get my plans together), but it does mean I won't be asking for money without giving you a thing in return.

I'm not going to apologize for anything I've said or written or anything I've become involved in. I still believe in the things I've said. I really do think WotC is so far making a mess of things, but D&D itself is a solid game and I like it a lot and I'm going to keep writing about it and Pathfinder and other games I like. But I'm going to focus on being constructive going forward. If I don't like a product or decision or thing, I'm just going to come out and DO IT BETTER. If there's a problem, I'm just going to fix it myself. 

Jennifer D'Aww ... ( http://twitter.com/GMShivers ) has been saying the same thing on Twitter to video game fans and critics who are up in arms about the state of the Industry. Her solution is #Solution6Months  . She's been putting up links to resources and tutorials to teach people game design skills so they can build solutions. Basically, so they can be the change they want to see. And I wholeheartedly support this. She's got a reddit thing here: http://www.reddit.com/r/KotakuInAction/comments/2uu8bt/solution6months_creating_real_change_in_the/

Now don't worry, I'm not going soft. I love being The Angry DM and I love the bombastic, over-the-top, cartoonish tone. I'm never going to lose that. But there's a way to do it constructively and that is a way I lost. 

What's the point of all of this? Well, I'm going back to writing the things people keep telling me they love and getting away from the bullshit that just makes people angry. And maybe this little screed will inspire other people to do the same. 

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Here's some stats I cooked up for a multipart Smoke Dragon fight:

Smoke Dragon Huge(ish) Dragon CR ~4?

Front
Init +11
Str 18 Dex 10 Con 14 Int 12 Wis 10 Cha  8
HP: 20
Base Att 4
CMB: +8, CMD: 18
AC 18 (+8 Nat)
+8 Headbutt 1d8+6
Phlegm Spit, breath weapon, 60 ft line, Ref DC 14 avoid, 1d4 rnd recharge - Target covered in black goo, 1/2 movement and -2 AC until move action spent brushing it off, incurring appro AoOs.

Rump
Init Front -5
Str 20 Dex 8 Con 16 Int 12 Wis 10 Cha  8
HP: 24
Base Att 4
CMB: +9, CMD: 18
AC 16 (+8 Nat, -2 Dex)
+9 Mule Kick 2d6+7

Tail
Init Rump -5
Str 14 Dex 14 Con 12 Int 12 Wis 10 Cha  8
HP: 16
Base Att 4
CMB: +6, CMD: 16
AC 20 (+8 Nat, +2 Dex)
+6 Tail Whip 1d6+2, Trip

On the front's turn, all parts chain after it. On rump's turn, rump and tail swivel around the front's square, on tail's turn, tail swivel's around the rump.
PhotoPhotoPhotoPhoto
2015-01-27
4 Photos - View album

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Nostalgia, Resentment and Regret
Our family was always nearly a full generation behind with gaming and I suppose I still am, it's cheaper that way. :3 But when I was young, we just didn't have
anything during the proper NES era. I'd go to a neighbor's or cousin's house and be
transfixed,...

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This is a pretty good perspective on gamergate, but like similar posts, I can't help but to wonder about the vacuum gamergate would leave. Is the dialog just tainted now?
Hi. I make games. I write about games. I get paid to make games. I used to get paid to write about games. I walked away from paid writing about games, because it was a pretty shitty, corrupt, jaded process that really flew in the face of why I wanted to write about games. 

I've talked to a lot of pro- #GamerGate  people over the past few days. I've tried to hear out as many as I could. It was hard. I want to first address why that was hard, then I want to try to address some of the trends between the reasonable, cool people I spoke with. 

First off, it's very difficult to wade through the hate. The signal to noise ratio is not good. In fact, it's terrible. If you're reasonable, and you want to have a conversation, it's difficult to do that when the person is hearing ten death threats and thirty insults for every single reasonable message. That mars any perception of credibility for a group that's invested heavily in credibility and ethics. 

Now, I've heard a few people say, "Point out the threats and insults when they happen! We'll report those people! They don't speak for us!" I've seen numerous people pointing these threats and harassments out. A couple of very bad times, I saw some people jump in, report, and otherwise shut down the threats. But more often than not (by a wide margin) what I saw was apologism and excuses for the threats and harassment. I saw a lot of "but this time it's warranted!" style messages. That doesn't help anyone. That doesn't build dialogue. 

So, if you want to know why there are prominent journalists right now talking about how gamer culture is toxic, and how gamers as a label are dead, this is why. Because even if you're rational, passionate, and wanting good things, your voice is being drowned out by loud, hateful, toxic people. 

A couple of days ago, I posted an email from the San Francisco Police Department verifying a police report placed by Anita Sarkeesian. Why? Because a muckraker accused her of lying, and drummed up a BUNCH of hate. His message had over six hundred reshares. His thread had dozens of people talking about how she needs to be imprisoned, how she needs to be shot, and how she's... you get the picture. So, I fact-checked. And I posted the results of that fact-checking. Did I get six hundred people recanting their threats, insults, and accusations? No. I got a couple dozen people threatening me, and a fuckton of people insulting me for DARING to fact-check a journalist. When, mind you, the Gamergate movement is supposedly about holding journalists accountable. Do you know how many messages came up to the effect of, "Oh. I shouldn't have jumped the gun and accused her without the facts?" None. None at all. 

So understand why a lot of us say, "This group of people is toxic." It's because a large majority of what we're experiencing is people doing very toxic things. There are some reasonable voices. But from where we stand, they're a stark minority. The movement is about accountability and ethics in journalism, yet the ONLY reaction I got from fact-checking a journalist was hate, denial, threats, and insults. From where I stand, calling Gamergate toxic and hateful isn't a far stretch at all, because it appears to be doing toxic and hateful things.

Yes, there's some positive. Yay, charities. But that's drowned out. And ironically, when we hear about a charity or otherwise positive thing, it's universally used as a method of attack. For example, there was a period where the Gamergate folks had it in their head that Zoe Quinn was lying about charitable donations. They'd trot out, "We aren't lying con artists! We really donate to charities!" Essentially, weaponizing charity. Then, I also heard a lot of people bragging when Zoe's donations were verified officially by the charities, because a group of (allegedly) thousands of people were able to donate more than a single independent game designer. Like seriously, very petty shit. 

So, corruption in journalism. Can I let you in on a secret? 

We want to have that conversation. We all do, with maybe a couple of exceptions. This is a conversation we've tried to have, and wanted to have for years. 

But why aren't we just sitting down and talking it over and smiling and playing games and shutting up about the feminisms? Basically, it's because we're having two completely different conversations. One's an insider conversation, informed about the industry. The other is an outsider conversation, based on half-truths, misunderstandings, and what we see as skewed priorities. 

On our side, a lot of journalists hate the nepotism, and most importantly, they hate the relationship the industry has with journalism. Because a while back ago, "games journalism" was essentially coopted as a marketing arm for certain AAA publishers. At that point, AAA publishers became gatekeepers for success in games journalism. It's awful, because we want to be talking critically. We want to be looking at games in different lights. We want to approach these works of art as works of art, and not just as the next success or flop. But that can't happen on any large scale, because of that corruption, because of the commercialism of it all. 

The way a lot of the Gamergate stuff looks to us really looks like some strange bizarro world where the games industry works completely different than it really does.

The biggest targets of Gamergate have been people who are frankly powerless in the games industry. People like Zoe Quinn and Phil Fish, they are not gatekeepers. They are not able to enact any real, significant influence on the industry. Most independent game jams, awards, and exhibitions are small groups of people, trying to make names for themselves in their little ponds. That's how independent artists work in pretty much every creative field. They can't compete with the game industry, so they're trying to carve out their own little micro industry, where they do their own things and have a captive audience. 

The people being targeted the most are small names, on the fringe of the industry. Even if these people all pat each other on the proverbial backs and promote each other into the ground with the corruption of a thousand watergates, their games will NEVER be as successful as even moderately popular indie games like Castle Crashers. We're talking about games that won't pay a single basic salary if successful. To these games, success doesn't look a lot different than failure. 

"SJWs" aren't affecting widescale change in video games. There's some minor change here and there. But most of it is shit that, if you weren't aware was changed, you wouldn't know was any different. If they get what they want, and that's a big if, the end result will be a few more games featuring a little more diversity, and maybe less rape and objectification. This will never, ever approach social justice change in major titles like Call of Duty. The SJWs know that. The Call of Duty developers are making Call of Duty. Nobody expects them to make something else. There's room for Call of Duty. Nobody is trying to take it away. Fuck, the ideal is ultimately MORE GAMES. This is a good thing. Experimental games move the industry forward, and make your core games better. Those games get to be the testing ground where we try out new ideas in a less risk adverse environment. 

Anita Sarkeesian? So far, a writer for an already very diverse game was influenced to cop to a trope in his games, and say he won't be using it again. Fundamentally, the game is still a manshooter game. Just, one story element will be swapped out for something else in the future, instead of recycling the same old thing. That's pretty much as far as her influence has gone. 

Here's why: She's not trying to enact and force change. She's pointing out trends, the way an art critic does. Some people might look to what she's saying, and ask for more exceptions from that trend. Some developers might see those trends in their work, and shift away. But she's never once said that games featuring sexist tropes should not be made. She even makes explicitly clear in every one of her videos that playing games with sexist tropes is okay, it's not wrong to have fun with those games. But, certain trends do influence attitudes, according to numerous scientific studies. She doesn't say these games will make you sexist. That would be stupid, since she, and numerous SJW types, have played these games. If she was saying that, and she's not, she would have to follow up her videos with, "I played this game. It made me sexist." 

Do you know what else this focus on Anita's doing? It's making your games worse. And I'm not saying, "Oh, if you leave Anita alone, she'll make games better". No. But right now, AAA game executives see people like Anita calling for diversity in games, and they're seeing people like Gamergate attacking them vehemently. They see SO much hate. They see 650 people retweeting the guy claiming she lied about a police report. This tells them that the market doesn't want diversity. This tells them to double down on boring, scruffy 30-something male protagonist with a dark past, blah, blah. When we look at games like Watch Dogs, and we think they could have done better if they were a little more ambitious, understand that people shitting on "SJWs" causes that risk averse, milquetoast game design. 

You can have discussions about Anita's points. But understand that she's making critique. A lot of it is subjective. A lot of it relies on specific definitions that she gives. For example, it's popular to attack her use of Hitman as an example of Women as Background Decoration. However, the only way it's not a valid example is if you're not actually using her definition. Essentially, you're throwing out her thesis and applying a different thesis to her examples. That's not fair, and it's not academically sound.

But have these discussions! Just focus on the art, the trends, and the culture. Don't focus on the person. Because if your goal is debunking her, you've already lost. Right now, people are throwing so much shit at her, hoping it sticks. Seriously. A journalist literally investigated whether or not she actually made a police report when people were threatening her life, and another prominent blogger demanded police report numbers from her. Neither of these people are entitled to that information. They're trying so hard to catch her up in a lie, that they're losing sight of what they're doing, and how silly and unethical it looks. Why does Anita have to be discredited, if her points are not valid? If her arguments are wrong, discuss them. 

Right now, publishers are buying reviews. Right now, publishers are giving large amounts of money and other perks to journalists in order to skew the public perception and influence, both positively and negatively, game sales. Right now, Metacritic is being used to determine whether or not designers get to keep their jobs. Right now, AAA executives are cutting women and LGBT characters out of games in development, because of "the core demographic". These are huge problems. These are problems we want to talk about. These are problems we want to fix. 

We aren't going to smile and nod while hundreds of people dogpile a couple of people's sex lives. We're not going to cheer you on while muckrakers are hounding people for answers to stupid, invasive questions they shouldn't be asking. We want a better industry. But we feel that what we're seeing, or at least the bulk of what we're seeing is making a worse industry. 

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Edelweiss' C86 Indie Game PV Reel Commentary
Here's a lengthy sampling of what we have to look forward to in the doujin game corner of Comiket 86: http://youtu.be/IlKyObPdtkc The first sixteen minutes or so of the video features Touhou spinoff games which certainly look fun, but disappointing since we...

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Square-Enix returning to JRPG roots, but what roots?
Looks like Square is thinking of going back to their JRPG roots: http://nintendoeverything.com/square-enix-reconsidering-jrpg-approach-following-bravely-defaults-success-will-come-out-with-more-heavy-jrpgs/ For some perspective, Bravely Default has sold som...

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A quick look from a buyer on Little Wizards RPG. This really piqued my interest. :D
So I picked up Little Wizards at Gamestorm 16 this last weekend and its a very light touch system. It really encourages the players to use their imagination when playing their characters and it really enforces the improv adage of "Always say 'yes' to an idea". 

For example, there are no spell lists to memorize, though theoretically they exist within the game fiction, when a character wants to cast a spell, they describe the effect they wish to achieve, "I want to turn that bully's hair pink!" and the Narrator then gauges what the difficulty is, Average (target number 7 on 2d6), and then the player rolls and then you gauge the results. 

The rules include what happens when the roll fails, a critical failure or Disaster, succeeds, and critically succeeds. Especially failures, the rule is failures are actually successes, but they have a cost that might make think twice about trying to do that spell ever again. 

My only issues with the game is the setting: Coinworld. It has two sides, Heads and Tails. There are 5 archipelagos on each "face" of the world, surrounded by a vast ocean. 

No mention is given as to how thick Coinworld is and what's along the edge of this world. This is important, as there are only three ways to travel from one face to the other:
One, you are teleported by a mage to the other side.
Two, you use a magic item to change sides.
Three, there are magic gates to the other side, but from the description in the game, these are not well known.

So what's stopping someone from sailing over the edge of the world and sail to the other side? Or, because the archipelagoes line up with each other, tunneling through Coinworld to the other side? I'm just curious why those methods were ignored.

I haven't played a game of this yet, so I can't comment on how easy it is for kids to learn. I'll have to find out.

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BitSummit Nico Reactions 3/9
The last day of BitSummit 2014 saw a large and active audience, so it was a little harder to get a read on reactions than previous days, but here's what I saw on the Nico Live stream. Microsoft - People slowly trickled into this day and there wasn't much ac...
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