How Dungeons and Dragons is endorsing the darkest parts of the RPG community

Note: The people named in this article have a history of harassing their critics. As such I have chosen to keep my sources and any traceable information they have given me anonymous to protect them.

Three weeks ago the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons came out. D&D is the iconic tabletop role playing game, so a new edition is a big deal. It’s one of the few times that the small, insular pen and paper community gets noticed by the rest of the world. Many game websites have talked about it, notably Polygon’s piece on gender inclusive language. Yet at the same time as D&D tries to appeal to those outside the gender binary, it has been driving them away by employing two of the most toxic personalities in tabletop gaming.

"Yep, looks like you’re dead," I say, "unless one of your companions can heal you at the last moment. The rest of you guys, what do you do? Bob, you have healing spells, right?"

"I run away and look for treasure," says Bob the mammoth-man cleric of Thor. Kids find it really amusing for some reason to name their fantasy characters Bob. I don’t entirely get it. I mean, my father was named Bob.

"Fine," I say, "Bob runs away and abandons Aziz. Harpy, how about you?

"I run away and look for treasure also," says Harpy the elf wizard.

"Me too," says everyone else in the party.

Thanks to Evil Mastermind on the Something Awful forums for sharing this link. Kids are hilarious.

I played Retrocausality tomorrow

Retrocausality is a simple game. Players journey to important points in history, represented by a timeline of index cards on the table. Cards that say things like “Germany invades Poland” or “KISS start touring”. Then they mess with things by drawing a playing card and aiming for a target number or suit. Also you can time travel.

Retrocausality is more complex than it seems, because you can time travel. Players journey to important points in history, represented by a timeline of index cards on the table. Cards that say things like “Germany invades Poland” or “KISS start touring”. Then they mess with things by drawing a playing card and aiming for a target number or suit. These changes then cascade down the timeline and new index cards are placed over subsequent events. If Hitler is dead in 1938, does Germany invade Poland? More importantly (to our game) if Gene Simmons doesn’t have a bad trip in the 70s, do KISS ever become famous?

A group of veteran Lets Players decided to try their hand at RPGs, and the result is a great introduction to pen and paper in general and Dungeon World in particular.

Early review of D&D, originally from the EnWorld forums (shared by Morrus on twitter). The reviewer apparently believes it is best played by phone.

Simon Parkin writes for The Magazine about how D&D influenced the rise of the Japanese RPG scene in the 1980s.

Holding out for a Hero in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

Pre-generated characters are the lettuce of the RPG world. Nobody asks for them but they’re always there anyway, padding out the plate. “If you don’t want to create your own character then just use one of these!” Exclaims the blurb. No-one ever does. Unless those characters was pre-made by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Then I’ll bite.

Most superhero RPGs are clunky affairs, bloated by overly complex character creation rules. Marvel Heroic Roleplaying acrobatically dodges this problem. They already have the characters, so all they need to do is ruthlessly cut anything that gets in the way of being a superhero. No complex rules for secret bases and personal wealth, just a great big ‘resource’ die to roll whenever you think it might come up.

In the latest Shut Up & Sit Down podcast they named Dungeons & Dragons their game of the month, and talked a little about their history with RPGs. I disagree strongly with Paul about D&D 4th Edition (more skills does not equal better!) but Quinns talks about Grey Ranks, so that’s interesting.

Welcome

Hello! Welcome to my new site! Lovely isn’t it? Come in, sit down, put your feet up. Mind the cat.

You’re probably wondering why I created this. Well I’ve long had a fascination with Pen and Paper RPGs (or Tabletop RPGs, or Storygames, or whatever name you want to put on them) but I never really get a chance to write about them. I’m not the only one either, I know dozens of professional games journalists who play RPGs, but none of us ever write about the experience.

Well here’s my attempt to change all that. With Fail Forward I aim to make a space where we can talk about all our interesting Pen and Paper experiences, and maybe push them into mainstream criticism, just as Shut Up And Sit Down and Cardboard Children did for boardgames.

To do that I’ll need your help! I need you all to write about RPGs. You can do this on your own site, and I’ll link to it, or you can send it to me, and I’ll publish it here. The best part? None of us have any idea what RPG writing should look like, so you’re free to try whatever style you want. Reviews, features, opinions, personal essays, diaries, interviews? It’s all up to you.

How often do we get a chance to define a new form of writing like this? I’m excited, and I hope you are too.