Monday, November 29, 2010

Proud to Commit Commercial Suicide

(and I don't even like Nailbomb...)

So I've been organizing the second printing of Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, including tightening a few things up rules-wise that people have commented on (sheesh people, if you all played like me it would be just fine :P), a new layout, as well as organizing additional art.

Additional art. That drives me nuts.

Let me tell you a story about the first printing. I may have already told it, but you'll suffer through hearing it again. There was supposed to be a RE Howard homage series of pics. Frost Giant's Daughter, Worms of the Earth, and Ollam Onga from the unfinished story that became Horror from the Red Tower in Savage Sword. The Frost Giant's Daughter is supposed to be naked. Ollam Onga is supposed to be naked as well. No nudity in the crucifixion scene from Worms though. Anyway, some of the art in that first printing doesn't appear as I intended it. Because I was under the gun with a firm deadline, I had commissioned a ton of art before practically anything had been written yet, and surprise surprise in layout things didn't fall neatly into place. None of the Howard scenes really got included the way they were supposed to.

But there is a naked lady in there, suddenly with no context. At the time of layout I was aware that this was not necessarily a good thing. I hate cheesecake art that comes across as being out of context. And the way the layout was going, Ollam Onga's swingin' doodaddle wasn't making it in the final product. To solve this imbalance, I was actually putting together an art montage, punk rock album style, to include in all the little art bits that got chopped by layout.
And then I realized I was spending several hours on this for the sole purpose of having a cock in the game as a balance against showing a snatch.

I stopped immediately as it was quite obviously stupid and ridiculous, and just had to suffer that there was an out of context nude woman in there.


So now I'm dealing with some new art. Some of this new art is here because I'm doing a more spacious layout with a bigger font (to respond to readability, which in terms of RPGs is also usability, criticism) and also because I feel that every new release, even if a new printing of a previous work, should be the best product I can produce. And my concern, I fear, is on all the wrong things. Because I see things like this and this. And I worry about it. I have women in my game's art, and my ideas for the game art this time around isn't pretty.

Not every piece of gaming art on Earth is a political statement, and certainly not all gaming art is intended to be illustrative of how people should see their characters. The art in the LotFP game is meant to get across the atmosphere of the assumed setting, not inform players that their halflings will have a huge dinger and that their fighters should collect trophies from the bodies of their foes.

So here I am counting instances of "female in power, female not in power, female scantily clad, female not scantily clad..." in the art that I'm commissioning because I feel I have to be aware of such things because people are watching and there's always talk of such things. And then I realize it's ridiculous. So I stop. And I think about a few things.

I'd say a damn large proportion of fantasy artists making a living from their work do a lot of "cheesecake" style artwork. I certainly saw a lot of that at Spiel with Elmore and Monte Moore's booths.
And it's quite obvious they use models as references. And I know a decent amount of women that do modeling, including nude modeling and fetish modeling (and full-on porn, in some cases). They like doing it. So models that like modeling model for artists who like to draw them, to be viewed by people who enjoy viewing them, and somewhere along the line this becomes a bad thing for women everywhere.

Really?

Here's a fun story: Luna (snake demon model for the LotFP box cover) was very very enthusiastic about her appearance on the box cover. Months ago I was talking with Luna about the possibility of bringing LotFP to GenCon (or DragonCon, or Origins, or to some noteworthy US convention). She volunteers to show up in a snake outfit and walk around topless to recreate her role on the cover, and is disappointed when told that probably wouldn't be allowed. Obviously I'm hanging out with evil self-oppressing women or something, else I can't make heads or tails out of some of the complaints of online gender-in-gaming philosophers.

You can talk about booth babes and cheesecake art and whatever you want to point to in order to make your point about how horribly out of touch gaming art and marketing is as far as pushing women away, but you're missing something that can be summed up in one easy catchphrase.

Beauty is Power.

Do you know any models? Strippers? Porn stars? You think any of them don't want to be picked for the next job? What about the everyday female? How many women do you know that are OK with being ugly? Women want to be attractive and be seen as attractive. Hell, so do men! And not only to men and women want to look beautiful, they want to look at beautiful things.

... how this relates to fantasy art, and fantasy game art, should be rather obvious. People who create (or direct) fantasy art have the power to use not only their sense of beauty and power, but their imagination about what beauty and power can be, in producing images. Duh. So if the result is a generously endowed warrior woman in unrealistically scanty clothing or a loinclothed bodybuilder barbarian tearing into a horde of faceless warriors (I consider them the same thing in many ways), this is as much a personal expression of taste as "I like strawberry jelly." Criticism of it on a political level is absolutely ridiculous.

And what about the rescuing the fair maiden in danger stereotype that gets people pissy? Why is it pervasive?

Because it draws a real response from people. Why it does, and whether that is good or bad, is irrelevant at the level of a role-playing game publisher. The concern instead is this: You think about what you want the art to say, and then you say it. There might be specific points of screwing around with expectations but by and large if you want to get an idea across you need to do it in a way that people will instinctively understand. This isn't high art.

As far as the "caged woman" thing goes, I see it this way: People want to feel like a good guy. Maybe even a hero. What do heroes do? They save people. Innocent people, in particular. From bad guys, if we're talking an adventure context. So if there's some victimwoman being held captive by villaindude in some piece of art, what is the message?

  • That woman is weak! or
  • That guy's an asshole!

Hint: It's the second one.

So if you want to show a villain and make sure that it's known that you're showing a villain, you show that villain doing villainous deeds. Showing a pretty lady in peril may be cliche conceptually, but the effectiveness of art can be the execution. Demanding every piece of art be conceptually original is absurd.

Why, do you ask, can't the implied story be that some weak, unappealing man has been imprisoned and needs saving?

Monty Python and the Holy Grail demonstrated that quite admirably. Yes, one can craft a believable and moving scenario where a man needs rescuing, but in a piece of art, especially a piece of art that is illustrating a broad idea and atmosphere in a rulebook and not illustrating a specific situation in an adventure, it has to be recognizable and self contained in the image itself.

Women are just better at some things than men and being a sympathetic victim is one of them. Yes, it can be taken too far when it becomes overdone, a shortcut rather than shorthand. The history of fantasy art may weigh heavily on the expectations of every new thing to come along, but to deny someone their own expression of a well-worn idea is pretty crap. Are you going to tell me you don't have a different reaction to the idea of witnessing two guys in a bar fight, versus a guy and a girl having a drunken brawl?

I don't think women would be more empowered by having violence against them be seen in an equal light as violence against men, and attempting to do so will draw fire anyway. I imagine, in my little strawman-building brain, that the same people who would complain about Helpless Women in Danger would be the same to complain about Adventuring Women Who Are the Equal of Men being shown to meet the same fate the men do in equal and equally brutal measure.

(as an aside, my game doesn't say one single word about this within its text and I consciously avoid using the word heroes, but Weird Fantasy Role-Playing works perfectly well for those wanting to play heroes. The implied setting and all the advice given is dark. Even a candle is easily seen in pitch darkness, and so it should be easy for the heroic-minded to work within a world without heroes. Yet people, from what I've seen, want their characters to match the darkness of the implied setting. Sink to the level of their surroundings. No skin off my back, not going to discourage it, but it's so damn easy to rise above. Do people, role-players even, who are supposed to be exercising imagination readily, really need to be told?)

Can you believe I've spent time worrying about appeasing those that won't give two shits about my game no matter what I do? And the only woman in peril pic I can think of offhand that will be appearing is some old woman who's being rescued by a woman... yet I worry. How silly is it to worry about the "politics" of a scene I think of because of how people react to that concept within other contexts? Worrying about whether the man or the woman should win that one sword fight (Rules p45 drawing is being extended to a 6 pic sequence) not on the basis of how I want it to add to the atmosphere of my work, but whether or not people will accuse me of being a misogynist or because of the risk that my game will get some bad reputation based on it? It's madness.

But no matter the context, if it just has the appearance of these "bad things in gaming art," somebody's going to get pissy about it and with me being a businessprick I do worry about how my releases are seen by the gaming public.

So let me declare right now that the woman in the sword fight is going to get stabbed right through the goddamn face and their will be a followup picture of the man stepping on her head to help dislodge the sword from her skull. The more brutal and disgusting it is the happier I'll be. I believe it gives the sequence more (negative) emotional power and also that having commissioned that I can stop worrying about this whole issue. OK, yeah, I'll be one of the "bad guys," that's settled, go away or publicize my work with your complaints. Don't complain to me that a piece of art that's supposed to make you feel uncomfortable actually makes you feel uncomfortable. While my world view certainly influences what I publish, what I publish isn't a simple reflection of my world view so stop pretending that it is. There's fantasy and there's reality and part of the point of fantasy is the imagining and exploring of things that one would never even want to exist in real life.

I'm not in the wish-fulfillment business. Plenty of others working that angle out there. Find them if that's what you're looking for.

The art in the game has a goal. I'll let you figure which of the following two possible goals I have in mind for the art:

  • Showing the world just how conscientious and sensitive and aware of important social issues I am, or
  • Instilling in my mostly-adult audience the same discomfort and anxiety that the Monster Manual caused me when I was 9 - 10

Hint: It's the second option.

Why would I want to do that? Because my game is supposed to be weird horror wearing a good old traditional fantasy gaming disguise. It's supposed to be scary. But you know what? It's 2010 and maybe Lovecraft and Smith and Poe and whoever else freaked people out back in the day, but I certainly don't find them disturbing or truly scary. I never did. Of all the reasons why I read that sort of thing, because it actually frightens or disturbs me isn't among them. Which is why I'm attempting to go for the feel and atmosphere of these writers, give the tip of the hat to their inspirations, instead of using their actual material. This isn't the OSR version of CoC D20 or even intended to be "D&D Cthulhu" and that's not what I mean when I say I consciously take on a Lovecraftian influence.

So having established what I want people to feel just by looking at the books in order to influence their impression of the game, I need to think about what would cause such anxiety. I have to think of what works for a modern 2010s reader and filter that through the proper in-game lens. I mentioned not too long ago that I was instructing artists to do something to get me arrested, and I was not kidding or exaggerating. I've hired an artist whose artwork has been banned all over the damned world (and it will involve women because I've got women lining up to be used as reference models for this artist).
I mean what is the point of holding back? This hobby is based on unleashing imagination, right? So I need to open my head up and show it to you. What, I need to worry about losing access to Wal-Mart shelves or something? Hell, I've already dropped any previous plans of going to GenCon because their list of product standards (section K here) is almost a checklist of what's appearing in upcoming LotFP products. I want a game that as a physical thing projects the feeling that a character in the game might feel. A product made in good taste isn't going to do that.

What the hell business do I have peddling good taste in the first place? What do I know about that sort of thing? Don't get me wrong, it's not like I'm going to present "Penthouse: The RPG" or anything (although wait til you see the new piece Luna modeled for...). It's not going to be "kill all the women just cause it's edgy, huurr hurrr!" Context and the correct atmosphere are important to me. But I'm not holding back within the confines of the project. Ollam Onga's going to have his dick because it says right there in the book that the dude's naked. Some artists (not all of them, this isn't going to be a total torture gallery or anything of the sort!) are going to deliver something disturbing - and if they don't I'll send it back and tell them to fix it. For instance, there was an early version of that one new Sheppard piece that I posted a bit of that my wife found to be quite gross, but it didn't move me at all... so back it went for some grossing up. Wait til you see the end result. (that's sort of how I decided on the creature design for the cover of the Tutorial book - I chose the idea that bothered my wife)

(another by the way: Why are so many artists so shy about showing the red stuff? "More blood!" is not an instruction I should have to repeat multiple times about the same piece... look at this forty second Youtube clip. It's a pro wrestling spot where Eddy Guerrero cuts himself just a tad too deep with a tiny sliver of a razor blade. And it gushes. When I commission a violent piece I have more than a tiny sliver of a razor blade in mind, you know? I suspect other publishers are worried about such things are often request artists to tone things down... reminds me of how Peter "Brain Dead" Jackson had the uruk-hai dismembered onscreen with not a drop of blood for Fellowship of the Ring... weak!)

I reject things in other media that obviously "cut away" or tone down what they do when that hides the harsh reality of what they do, so I need to make sure that what I present to the world has the same qualities that I look for in art and storytelling. For this project, just showing the in-game reality of what half the abstract mechanics represent is enough to accomplish my goal. What exactly do you think it looks like from a character point of view when you bring someone to zero hit points with a friggin mace, anyway? Hell, what do you think Charm Person would really be most used for? (hint: I don't think it's mesmerizing your enemy to be a guide or help beat up your other enemies)

And none of this matters, really. That's the maddening thing! Anything "shocking" now will in a few years be considered tame. Remember that all those classic Hammer movies got hit with the big X rating when they first came out. Remember the absolute outrage over Mortal Kombat in the 90s, especially when the home versions came out? Or the controversies surrounding the very existence of Dungeons and Dragons in the early 80s? Today's outrage is tomorrow's example of quaint overreaction. So I consider it shameful that I even worry about any of this, but worry about it I do, and my way of dealing with it is to push back hard.

I announce that the second printing of LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, which should go to press after the start of the new year, will be known as the "Grindhouse Edition." If you at all intend to play the game with polite company, or if you are polite company, I suggest you get yourself a Deluxe Edition copy still available from some vendors before they're all gone.

LotFP Grindhouse Edition

The Boxed Set will Include:
Tutorial Book (96 pages, will include the Recommended Reading material)
Rules/Magic Book (168 pages)
Referee Book (96 pages, will include some new material including requested sample monsters and magic items as well as a new short introductory adventure The Changelings)
(these will be perfect-bound softcovers)
Character Sheets
Dice
OGL

Artists:
(artists with new pieces in the Grindhouse Edition in bold, new color piece with an asterisk)
Rowena Aitken*
Aeron Alfrey
Tomas Arfert
Dan Berger
Nicole Cardiff*
Christina Casperson
Ernie Chan
Dean Clayton
Diana Davidsson
Jacqui Davis
Rick Hershey*
Laura Jalo
Vince Locke*
Peter Mullen*
Russ Nicholson
Jason Rainville*
Cynthia Sheppard*
Amos Orion Sterns

Print Run: 2000 Copies

Death is coming.

(OK, so I haven't gotten a good tagline going. "Playtime is Over" was another one I was thinking of just because we're talking about a game and so that would be amusing but then I remember that people still think that I really do hate fun so if I have to deal with morons who take every word literally then I'd rather those people think that I'm trying to kill them.)

90 comments:

  1. I think anyone with a fully clothed swordswinging princess kicking the you-know-what out of some demon on the front cover, should get a free pass on the victimwoman thing.

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  2. So, no single volume hardback A5 edition then?

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  3. It amazes me that you can simultaneously be aware of the problematic depictions in the industry standard magazine and yet not be concerned.

    There is a reason why White Wolf was so successful with Masquerade. It provided an outlet for women to roleplay in a way that they could see themselves doing. They could imagine themselves as a vampire more than they could imagine themselves as a wizard/fighter/thief.

    Further, I don't think you are taking into account the impact this decision will have on gamers with children. I have a 2 year old daughter. She loves to look at my gaming books, especially the monster manuals and star wars stuff. But I put the vampire books on another shelf, with the book of vile darkness, because I don't want her to read it. And I will not be buying those kind of books in the future for that reason, because I want to be able to share my hobby with my daughter and I cannot do that if I have to worry about flipping the page to find someone stabbing a woman in the face.

    I have always been in favor of freedom of speech/press and I actually think the GenCon rules are dumb. If this is what you really want to do then more power to you. But know that I won't be getting it. Or wanting it.

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  4. What sort of price will the new edition be going for? I'm probably going to pick it up anyway, just to save wear on the saddle-stitched booklets from the original box, but I'd like some sort of guide over how much to set aside for it.

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  5. Garden Society Member #21 here - I'm a member because I want to support what you're doing. I thoroughly enjoy your take on the game.

    "Instilling in my mostly-adult audience the same discomfort and anxiety that the Monster Manual caused me when I was 9 - 10"

    This is a very telling statement - I think in some way that is the heart of the OSR. We want in our lost-dreams older way to recapture some of those youthful revelations.

    But some of your mostly-adult audience like Greg above and myself, have little kids. I want to share this passion with them. Whereas I have no qualms letting them look through my old books and freaking out over the image of Blibdoolpoolp or Yog-Sothoth, or lingering a bit too long over the image of Loviatar, there is in the art spectrum a Gone Too Far.

    I hope you produce what you need to do, but please consider providing/selling a toned down or art free pdf version we can be more open with because I don't want to have to hide my copy.

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  6. Will the changes and addendums be avaialble online for those of us who bought the previous addition? In all honesty, I will probably buy the new set as well but I thought I should check. I like the sound of what you are trying to do and the new art sounds pretty intense.

    I can understand those with kids being wary but that's what this game is - an unsettling, dark take on fantasy role playing games. I'm not trying to be flip but I bet you don't leave your porn out anymore either.

    Keep up the great work, congratulations on the new printing and I look forward to hearing more about it soon.

    Bring it on!

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  7. @ Greg: It's ironic you would cite White Wolf as I've often heard and read the same kind of objections regarding the depiction of women that Jim is talking about. Yet, to the surprise of many, it ended up being a hit with women, over-sexualization and all... They did it abundantly in their Exalted line as well. Truth is, most women are not bothered by T&A, they're bothered by cluelessness of femininity. There's a huge difference. A lot of women actually adore a luscious depiction of the Dracula story such as Coppola's. Why is that? It features women as subservient sex objects and yet... women don't seem to mind. Others in this hobby have pointed at the perfect figures and lack of clothing in art to explain why so few women were into DnD but what about the Spice Girls? Perfect figures, not much clothing. I think illustrator Royo has as many if not more female fans, despite the depiction of women in his work.

    It's in the attitude, not the percentage of flesh exposed.

    I also sympathize with the children aspect. Indeed, there's plenty of stuff that's great in life and not totally appropriate for kids. But who said everything had to be geared toward children? When you say you won't "be buying those kind of books in the future for that reason, because you want to be able to share this hobby with your daughter", this tells me LotFP should be an industry-standard, flagship product representing the entire industry.

    It's like saying "I'm not going to buy that Pulp Fiction DVD! I want to enjoy watching movies with my children" as if you can't have the "Pulp Fiction" shelf and a "Walt Disney" one.

    Neither Greg Costikyan's Toon nor Raggi's LotFP are representative of the roleplaying industry. They're just strongly flavored products that may or may not appeal to you.

    I also note with irony that you praised White Wolf on one hand and condemned them with the other.

    Anyways, I hope Jim continues to push for a strong flavor instead of going for generic appeal. That's how the product stood out, IMO.

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  8. With things like this, you merely have to be sure that you are coming from the right place. Most people will be able to recognize that. Or at least take your products at face value. The people who take them time to overanalyze it will probably miss the point no matter what. And most "bad publicity" is good because it will expose your products to lots of people who can clearly see that the critic has missed the point.

    Yeah. I have kids. The oldest is showing signs of wanting to play--more than just the "introductory" things I've run for them before. There's probably some stuff in my collection that I'll hold back because I don't think it is quite yet appropriate. (Although, more important to me is that I'm there to add context to things rather than trying to protect them from things.)

    And no matter what art shows up in the book, James has given us the art-free PDF, which I could give to the kids if I want to play LotFPWRPG with them.

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  9. @ Constant Dude

    Looks like you did not follow Raggi's links. The study he cited has a long discussion about how women are presented in subservient/submissive roles as victims and objects. Women in White Wolf's products are not presented that way. At least, not in the ones that I have. Female vampires are powerful beings that are presented as dominant. I actually don't care that much about the actual sex as much as the subservience that is an issue when you start bringing in the sex.

    The reason I keep White Wolf on a shelf away from my daughter is actually not about sex at all, but extreme violence and gore. It is about a dude with blood all over his face. People with missing body parts. Tzimicze-style weird shit. That kind of stuff. A child can see people having sex and be curious. A child will see someone with blood all over their face and be scared. Big difference.

    And note that I specifically said Vampire, because I see no reason for my daughter to not flip through Werewolf or Mage, so it is not a White Wolf issue so much as it is a Vampire issue.

    This is actually less of a problem with new WoD that it was with Masquerade. Requiem is actually pretty tame.

    My point to Raggi was that I find it a little odd that he can know there is a problem with presenting women as subservient victims and yet he will choose to have art that replicates that. He actually argues that women make "better" victims. Which is absolutely insane to me, it really is. That kind of thinking is part of the problem.

    This is a seperate point from the issue of violence, which I raised specifically as it relates to gamers with children.

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  10. James, I support you going all-out on this. This isn't 4th Edition D&D Essentials. This is Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

    The only kind of nudity that I don't like in RPG art is the kind that makes no sense (i. e., women in chainmail bikinis, etc.).

    The only kind of graphic violence that I don't like in RPG art is the over-the-top, unrealistic kind (i. e., gallons of blood spilling from a single corpse, etc.).

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  11. Your post doesn't really describe anything controversial. Honestly I wouldn't have given a second thought towards a lot of things you were putting under consideration.

    I'm not a fan of beefcake-and-boobs art (yeah I'm looking at you Vallejo) because it doesn't strike me as being very serious (who fights buck-naked? seems stupid on its face). Being clothed is a lot more practical most of the time. But it's not a deal-breaker, I just don't like adolescent puerility for its own sake.

    The only things that I would consider off limits would be sexual violence and violence towards children. That sort of thing doesn't have a place at my games.

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  12. The most offensive statement was the comment about Fellowship of the Ring unrealistically not having gore, which, is a glorious flick even if mass-marketized.

    We also could have had one paragraph stating that political correctness is unreasonable and the fact that people are at all offended kind of shocks me. Addiction to progressivism instead of pragmatism I guess - these same people will raise their sons and daughters differently from each other, and then claim that it is a some societal distortion that women are victims.

    These same guys when in the actual scenario, would they argue that women and children should not necessarily get on the life rafts first, and that they should be on since we are equally treated? And that women's Olympic events be cancelled because we should not delineate the genders... Please.

    It is okay to pragmatic, and adhere to principals such as "We allow any opportunity or role for regardless of gender, but acknowledge it is valid as well a great number of people will pursue traditional roles and celebrate them so long as they do not stomp those who seek a different path."

    Also: I think time spent perusing art for consideration and layouts is less fruitful than more setting-building material and modules your genius can concoct. As is re-release of materials without providing the update to prior buyers. Not industry best practice in the era of erratas and Pdfs.

    ...but yes the art is nice, I admit, I underestimate it, but let's focus on what I can play with...

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  13. For clarification, I never said that anything James is proposing is "offensive". I just said that it will unnecessarily limit it's audience.

    I support anyone's right to publish whatever they want. It just isnt the obligation of everyone to buy it. Corporations get harassed all the time by the pundit media for being too political incorrect, as if the corporation really cares about it. The corporation cares about money. They say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, not because they hate Christmas but because they want some of that non-Christian coin. They are greedy.

    My point is that this is a bad business move, which isnt really my point, it is James' own point in the title of his post. So in a way, I am supporting James' thesis, just pointing out some additional details. Hehehehe

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  14. @Greg

    I understand. I just respectfully disagree. My point is, one isolated feature of a product does not determine its appeal to a particular audience or gender. It's the whole package. That's why Nine 1/2 Weeks, from college courses back in the days until today, has consistently scored higher amongst women than men in any way imaginable including focus groups and surveys. Yet on the surface, it's all about women subservience.

    But for some reason, women dig that flick more than men. Another flick exploring the same theme might not appeal to them as much. My point is, it's easy to get stuck on one aspect of a product but there are usually numerous factors at work.

    I think Jim has always carried the horror/weird/pulpy flag. The illustrations won't make or break his product. The whole package (including themes, writing, etc... will determine its appeal to various segments of gamerdom. It will also not be suitable for everybody, which makes sense. Horror rarely is.

    I think it was smart of him to identify a niche that was unoccupied and which he really loves and enjoys writing about.

    But I totally respect your stance on this. By all means, vote with your wallet.

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  15. The only things that I would consider off limits would be sexual violence and violence towards children. That sort of thing doesn't have a place at my games.

    @ Pat - Then I guess you won't be buying the LotFP version of Geoffrey's Carcosa, what with all of the gleeful child raping and virgin strangling and suchlike.

    These guys are so edgy, and incredibly courageous to corner the market on RPG snuff fantasies. Please.

    Am I offended? No. Am I embarrassed for them? "You betcha".

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  16. 9 1/2 weeks is about relationships. That's why more women like it than men. It's not really relevant to LOTFP's art.

    I believe James wants to make a living at LotFP which puts him a different boat than a lot of OSR product producers (I think - maybe I'm wrong. I don't get the impression that it's many people's full time job). So his concerns are certainly different than mine would be.

    I think there is a potential conflict between the edgy product that a vocal group of current customers want (majority or minority I wouldn't know), and what kind of product can be moved through a distribution channel to retail shelves.

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  17. Just chiming in to say that you may have sold me on buying a second copy of the rules. This edition sounds great to me...

    If you are ever looking for an artist in the future that isn't afraid to get extra drippy and gory, I highly recommend Matt Putrid of http://putridgore.com/.

    He's mostly known for his album covers and horror film tributes. He has been getting a lot of work from the death metal underground lately. Great dude, too...

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  18. To respond to a few points:

    >>So, no single volume hardback A5 edition then?

    This was THE big decision of the second printing. The deciding factor was, "What's cooler? A box or a book?" A box has several disadvantages, not least of which is that I need to put the things together by hand, but in the end... the box allows a freedom in its format that a single book doesn't, I like how the first printing handle at the table, and I don't like how large rulebooks handle at the table.

    >>Further, I don't think you are taking into account the impact this decision will have on gamers with children.

    I think that RPGs should not be more restrained than music or movies or fiction. I certainly am surrounded by things that are in no way child-appropriate, and it seems very limiting to ignore all that when it's time to do my own work.

    I'll be sticking some sort of "16+" age advisory on the back of the box, because it's not really for little kids, and I don't want anyone to think that it is.

    The free pdf when updated will again be art-free and no harsher than the current version is.

    >>What sort of price will the new edition be going for?

    Can't give an exact figure yet, but it will be cheaper.

    >>Will the changes and addendums be avaialble online for those of us who bought the previous addition?

    There will be a separate free-to-download pdf that details all of the differences. Cleaning up the skill system as discussed in a recent post is BY FAR the biggest change, but there will be other minor things.

    >>My point to Raggi was that I find it a little odd that he can know there is a problem with presenting women as subservient victims and yet he will choose to have art that replicates that.

    There will be women victims, but in most cases competent fighting victims - only in one case will it be a submissive situation and that's to really drive home a villainous idea. It's supposed to be awful.

    >>He actually argues that women make "better" victims.

    It can go too far (the "women in refrigerators" situation), but I do find that a woman in danger does get more sympathy than a man in danger. I didn't create that situation, and I think it's absolutely foolish to pretend it's not so.

    >>My point is that this is a bad business move

    We'll see. One thing that weighs heavy is traveling out to these conventions and being asked by people, "How is LotFP different from old D&D/Labyrinth Lord/Swords & Wizardry/Basic Fantasy/etc etc etc?" Sometimes I just give the standard sales pitch. Sometimes I read passages to them (Speak with Dead is a favorite of mine to read to get the difference in tone across).

    The differentiation is important in an increasingly crowded market of similar products, and it's a lot easier to show someone how it's different than to try to explain it.

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  19. @ Pat: "9 1/2 weeks is about relationships. That's why more women like it than men. It's not really relevant to LOTFP's art."

    You nailed it, kinda! There are often underlying factors beneath appearances. The point is, Raggi has a strong writing and design style (which may or may not appeal to everybody) and he follows through by choosing illustrations in the same vein.

    But it's the whole package that will determine whether this is of interest to various potential customers, not just one feature. And the more coherent the whole package is, the more people will be turned on or turned off by it. In effect, he zooms in on the audience he is looking for.

    Now, if Raggi was into writing in the tone and vibe of Harry Potter and cheapened his product with those illos? That would be monumentally stupid. But here, it fits the material. Will it turn off certain segments? Probable.

    A good example of gratuitous cheescake was the flurry of historical supplements by Avalanche Press several years ago. Those were just dumb.

    I guess I'm just saying people are focusing too much on this particular aspect of LotFP when determining who it will appeal to. There are other factors at work and they all point to the same vision and flavor.

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  20. Including art with the full male Monty as well as female nudity, and including art with violence against women as well as the usual assortment of pictures involving violence against men, should help improve the flavor of the inevitable backlash.

    It should help shift the discussion from knee-jerk sexism accusations to the usual stuff about how violent art turns us all into psychopaths (no doubt by now I must have killed and eaten hundreds of people, given my appetite for such art).

    It will also highlight the other discussion taking place in this thread, about what should or should not be safe for children. Unless you want to rehash that discussion for the rest of your career, you might want to borrow J. Eric Holmes's famous "for adults 12 years and up" line to make your intended audience clear - or maybe "for adults of all ages." The whole world doesn't need to be sanitized for children, but parents appreciate a little help in distinguishing which parts are for big folk and which for the little people.

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  21. BTW, I have seen at least a couple of people saying that they bought LotFP for their young niece. They are attracted by the stylish cover art with its sword swinging heroine. Now, irrespective of what warnings or age-recommendation stickers you may put on the box, the emotional response that the cover triggers has a very strong pull (and remember that if your buying online you will get a much better look at the cover than you ever will at the text on the box or whether there's a warning). So if you're releasing a version with 'stronger' interior art, you may want to consider modifying your cover art to provide an immediate visual clue that this isn't the game they were looking for.

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  22. @Jim - I like how the first printing handle at the table, and I don't like how large rulebooks handle at the table.

    I think it's a mistake, paperbacks are going to fall to shreds. Although you are switching to perfect-bound so that's an improvement. Large hardbacks are a standard for a reason, they are easier to read and stand up to abuse better than paperbacks. You don't need to hit the rulebooks as much because you wrote them.

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  23. >>remember that if your buying online you will get a much better look at the cover than you ever will at the text on the box or whether there's a warning

    Most, if not all, online vendors copy my website promo text for their page, and my page info will have the age disclaimer. The vendors that don't do that, well, they'll see the disclaimer themselves so if they don't then communicate that to their customers, that's on them.

    >>You don't need to hit the rulebooks as much because you wrote them.

    I crack the books open every time a spell is cast (I can't remember those details to save my life) or buys any equipment or room at the inn or a drink at the bar. I'm not good with keeping the details straight for little bits like that, so I am in the books a lot, and that's exactly why the idea of a big hardcover is unappealing to me...

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  24. @ Jim

    In response to this:
    "I think that RPGs should not be more restrained than music or movies or fiction. I certainly am surrounded by things that are in no way child-appropriate, and it seems very limiting to ignore all that when it's time to do my own work.

    I'll be sticking some sort of "16+" age advisory on the back of the box, because it's not really for little kids, and I don't want anyone to think that it is."

    ----

    You said you wanted them to make art that will get you arrested. You said you are hiring an artist whose work has been banned. Now you have brought up movies above as a comparison.

    So would it be fair to say this is on par with a snuff film?

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  25. I'm not getting the controversy at all.
    We are talking about a Fantasy game in which you hack, slash and kill as much as possible and then loot the corpses and the trespassed property, right? I think 'politically correct' and 'fantasy rpg' are kinda mutually exclusive terms.
    I can't imagine any parent letting their child under 8 or 10 play even a watered down version of a hack n' slash game. That said, the thought of my child thumbing through an 'adult' fantasy book and finding a scantily clad anybody ain't the end of the world. Unlike, watching a "KIDS" program like the Nick Choice Awards and seeing 'Hannah Montana' in hot pants grind her body against a stripper's pole, that did give me pause to wonder WTF is going on in kid's entertainment these days and helped me decide we don't really need TV in our house.
    But LotFP?....We do need that...for Daddy of course!

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  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  27. Putting a 16+ age advisory on the box will increase your sales to those under 16. And that's a good thing.

    I started playing D&D in 1980 when I was 10, and within a few months of that the AD&D Deities & Demigods was released, and I bought it when it first hit the shelves. I was totally BLOWN-AWAY by the Cthulhu Mythos section: the Erol Otus illustrations, the forbidden lore, the evil, the dark conjuration spells, the human sacrifices (required for EVERY deity in the pantheon), Yog-Sothoth raping women, etc. All that sunk deep into my imagination and I said to myself, "Now THIS is D&D." (And thus was planted the seed that sprouted as Carcosa decades later.)

    In my experience, the demonic stuff is appealing to many youngsters. Goodness knows that my adolescent friends and I gobbled-up the demonic horrors in AD&D while regarding B/X as sanitized and unappealing.

    I suspect that sex and violence in RPGs tend to bother parents more than they bother children.

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  28. >>So would it be fair to say this is on par with a snuff film?

    No. First, I've got the sketches and I've seen worse. It's "bad," sure, and I'm sure it will draw some outrage, but it's not comparable to footage of real-life death.

    Now the last film festival I attended they showed things like Bad Biology and A Serbian Film. Old "video nasties" like Cannibal Holocaust and I Spit On Your Grave are in my DVD library. I've seen a large selection of Fulci and Argento films, I've seen heads explode in Scanners and Dawn of the Dead and League of Gentlemen: Apocalypse (a comedy). While they're not my favorites I don't at all mind movies like Hostel and Saw. I grew up on the Romero zombie movies, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Hellraiser (Clive Barker is on the Recommended Reading list for a reason - ever read those Books of Blood?), etc. My mother even had me watch Flesh For Frankenstein (aka Andy Warhol's Frankenstein) at a too-young age. Pretty brutal stuff but all total fiction (barring the animal slaughter in Cannibal Holocaust).

    The "Weird Tales" connection came later for me, but it obviously hit me hard. When I read Thing On the Doorstep and Pickman's Model and about the autopsies from At the Mountains of Madness, Lovecraft may not have dwelled on the grotesque but it's there. Clark Ashton Smith does go there more graphically, Isle of the Torturers and Return of the Sorcerer come to mind immediately, and he even hits sensual notes in his horror.

    Some pics will be nasty, but they will be in line with both my own inspirations and background as well as the literary forefathers of the hobby.

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  29. "Putting a 16+ age advisory on the box will increase your sales to those under 16. And that's a good thing."

    Geoff, your moral compass is pointing you off a cliff. You need to re-calibrate.

    A warning like that isn't supposed to be a cynical ploy to increase sales, or whatever you're driving at. It's a tool to help parents decide whether material is appropriate for their children.

    The whole point of parenting is that parents know better than the kids, and should be looking out for them. This includes exposure to sex and violence. Of course parents are going to give these things more consideration than children.

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  30. @ Jim

    I find it humorous you don't consider those things "bad". Regardless, I stand by my original points.

    I am no moralist and this is not a condemnation or attack. But if you go down this road, I cannot follow. I consider prostelytizing to youth to be a big requirement if gaming is going to continue to be a viable business into the future. And this derails that train. Pretty hard. Sorry.

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  31. I meant to say,

    You don't consider those things anything more than "bad".

    Whoops

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  32. James - that's an excellent line-up of artists.

    Charm Monster was abused bigstyle by an MU in our teenage campaign. The Monster Manual was a sex menu. Gross, haha.

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  33. Oh, some of them are downright vile, and I'd never go anywhere in the realm of say A Serbian Film, but the point is that the way RPGs are presented seem to be so much more restricted than any other media.

    There are differences due to the active nature of RPG participation - the "How Graphic" section of the Ref book will be updated to specifically mention that just because it's in the game art doesn't mean players would or should feel comfortable playing out such situations - but there is room for all types of tone and presentation.

    And for the record, my intention with putting an age disclaimer on is to genuinely let people know this isn't a neutral-content game. I'm not going to get enough mainstream market penetration to have it work as a cynical "draw the kiddies with controversy!" marketing ploy anyway.

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  34. "Geoff, your moral compass is pointing you off a cliff. You need to re-calibrate."

    Pat, we're not within 100 miles of good and evil here. Instead, we are talking about drawings in a game about make-believe. "Good" and "evil" aren't the terms that apply here. Rather, the phrases "I like" or "I don't like" make sense in this context.

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  35. "And for the record, my intention with putting an age disclaimer on is to genuinely let people know this isn't a neutral-content game."

    While I am sure James means exactly that, it is human nature for those under the age of 16 to be drawn to a game marketed for those 16 or older.

    Remember back to being 12 years old. Then suppose you saw two shrink-wrapped RPGs with similar covers. One said, "For ages 12 and up", and the other said, "For ages 16 and up". Which one would you have grabbed?

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  36. It certainly was a badge of honor as a little kid to be able to say how many R-rated movies I had seen. When Back to the Future came out I was, at the age of 10, skeptical about how good it could be because I heard there weren't any killings.

    But still, if you're a kid and you're sneaking a Playboy or some movie you weren't allowed to see, you were prepared. You knew you were in for something that you're not supposed to be able to handle. You don't just dive in unaware by accident.

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  37. I am not nearly enough of a masochist to read the entire post or the comments after having spent several thousand years in art school discussing this shit, but here's what the Vornheim Kit disclaimer will say:

    Note: Although not specifically "intended for adults" the author of this book has no children and constantly forgets that other people do,
    which may or may not be reflected in the content of this work. Nervous parents should probably read it before letting their
    children get their hands on it, and adults stupid enough to imitate the morally repugnant practices (slavery, human sacrifice, animal cruelty,
    copyright infringement, etc.) described herein because they read about them in a book about a game should probably stop reading books
    altogether.

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  38. The wife chimed in, this from her complaints upon seeing Machete, which she pointed out also applies to a lot of game art which wants to make fighting appealing and fun:

    "Taking another's life should never be portrayed as fun or easy. It should never feel fun or easy to the viewer.

    When killing is depicted so easy, it's like making popcorn. Pop pop pop and you've got half a dozen dead bodies lying about and you follow it up with a witty remark and everyone goes, 'Ha ha!' That's not the right reaction to taking somebody's life, or to seeing somebody die.

    Violent death is always sickening and horrifying. It should not be depicted as wholesome family fun."

    I'll let you guys decide if that's relevant to the conversation here.

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  39. This is why I love this blog.

    We should all keep in mind that internet access and digital media on iphones etc., has blown the idea of innocence beyond the age of 12 full clear out of the water.

    It ain't the same world we grew up in folks.

    And as for RPG w/ my younguns...My 7 year old daughter and I will play Mouseguard while my 12 year old son can join the LotFP group I'm forming.

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  40. Side note:
    I know parents that have no problem that their 11 yr old son watched the movie, "Saw". While another parent complained to the local school board that the school allowed the sale of "Pokemon" books at the school book fair citing the extreme violence his 13 year old was being subjected to by the book's content.

    Not sure how this fits in but it felt right to share.

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  41. I love how my assertion that having extreme art is going to have adverse effects on people with children who want to use these materials with their children has turned into an imagined fight between puritanical forces and the Libertines. To me, this is a simple issue of fact, not opinion.

    If a product has more extreme art, it will naturally have a more limited audience.this is obvious, even to Jim. Read the title of his post, he knows it is negative on sales. my only point has been that this effect will be more extreme than Jim realizes, as even progressive minded people may avoid the product because they are gaming with or around kids. Considering how many podcasts have episodes on gaming with kids and every year a larger segment of gamers is over 30, I don't see this as a radical assertion. The reply of there being an art-free PDF is bogus, because that is a lost sale too. This will impact sales in a major way. Maybe not at first, if there is ignorance involved, but eventually.

    That jim's primary audience is older OSR players makes an even stronger case for caution on this issue.

    As I have said before, I am no moralist. I am a pragmatist. And pragmatically, this is a terrible move.

    The reactionary comments (I am not including jim here, fyi) about how parents are dumb or ignorant is amusing to me. I can see that you people have been on the brunt of this shit for so long you can't tell when someone is just telling you how the world is, not how it ought to be.

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  42. @ Jim, regarding this comment

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

    The wife chimed in, this from her complaints upon seeing Machete, which she pointed out also applies to a lot of game art which wants to make fighting appealing and fun:

    "Taking another's life should never be portrayed as fun or easy. It should never feel fun or easy to the viewer.

    When killing is depicted so easy, it's like making popcorn. Pop pop pop and you've got half a dozen dead bodies lying about and you follow it up with a witty remark and everyone goes, 'Ha ha!' That's not the right reaction to taking somebody's life, or to seeing somebody die.

    Violent death is always sickening and horrifying. It should not be depicted as wholesome family fun."

    I'll let you guys decide if that's relevant to the conversation here.

    --------

    This is a much larger and more complex philosophical issue. I think a case can be made that such things actually cause a strong AVERSION to real life violence, because it has become so far removed from everyday life by the media.

    For example, if I pulled out a live chicken and chopped it up right in front of someone today, they would most likely be HORRIFIED. This is because violence against animals has become so abstracted and so removed from real life, only occuring in a quasi-fictional universe that exists beyond the supermarket.

    The same with real violence. People don't see real violence occuring, for the most part. When it does occur, it is REALLY powerful on the observer. Sidelining violence into a video game or similarly abstracted media where it becomes "fun" pushes the violence even further from the "real world" of the observer.

    As a result, if it means anything to this debate, I think the comment from your wife actually strengthens my case that having art like this will be shocking and thus will have a stronger negative impact that you foresee.

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  43. I'm deliberately going to ignore the entire kerfluffle here (mostly because I don't care -- I like looking at pretty naked people of either gender) and focus on your statement about how you needed a good tagline.

    Since the title has the word "lamentations" in it, how about: "Time to Cry" ? I admit it sounds a tiny bit cheesy but it fits.

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  44. Even great artwork can be limiting if it pushes the niche. Look how 4e has served to shape player perception of characters through the art.

    To me, D&D is more than just about uncovering the horrors of the unknown, and as LOTFP hones it on that major aspect (with killer precision) I think that's why I can't get enthusiastic about it. Players who want to play LOTFP with me would be disappointed because of that. Because they expect the horror experience.

    I think it was a smart decision to focus on exploration at a time when 4e became just about combat, and I understand the need to have a strong market identity. But this sacrifice of breadth at an early stage is a turn off for me. Like some slasher film franchise ploughing the same furrow. Anyway, that's just me :)

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  45. (that's sort of how I decided on the creature design for the cover of the Tutorial book - I chose the idea that bothered my wife)

    James, you could have spared us this interminable cliche-ridden public 'Why why is empathy so hard' jerkoff (now circle jerk, in comments) and just shared that single sentence instead, which handily captures your RPG work's sophomoric attitude toward women, violence, etc. The fact that you don't seem to know that you're repeating sexist cliche is worth looking at too.

    This sentence would serve handily as a one-liner as well:

    Women are just better at some things than men and being a sympathetic victim is one of them.

    The failure of imagination behind that sentence is complete; it pushes through 'contemptible' straight into 'pitiable.' Perhaps Zak can recommend some highlights from the last century or so of art criticism/history to help clarify what's going on in the debate you're logorrheically missing the point of.

    This post is stupid and ugly; perhaps that gives you a little thrill. I'm embarrassed to say I know that feeling. But you should also know that the post, the pseudo-argument you think you're making, is utterly, utterly boring. That won't matter to your core audience, of course. So in the interest of holiday well-wishing: I hope you're satisfied with your core audience, small business owner.

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  46. Are you seriously denying that people tend to look at violence against women as a more despicable thing than violence against men?

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  47. Are you seriously denying that people tend to look at violence against women as a more despicable thing than violence against men?

    Don't be dense, James. And please don't waste time with loopy rhetorical gestures.

    You said: "Women are just better at some things than men and being a sympathetic victim is one of them." Apparently you don't understand why this makes you sound like a troglodyte.

    Lemme give you a hint: you seem to think the important part of your sentence is the word 'sympathetic.' But it's not. And you seem to think 'being a...victim' is something women do for men. But you have it backward.

    Please, please find more interesting ways to provoke emotional responses than with tits, blood, and grade-school blasphemies. That is what I mean by 'failure of the imagination.' The plural of myopia is not culture, for Christ's sake.

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  48. >>you seem to think the important part of your sentence is the word 'sympathetic.' But it's not.

    I wrote the sentence, I should know damn well where the emphasis is, especially in the context of the rest of the paragraph. If you want to disregard "sympathetic" as unimportant in that sentence, I can't stop you, but then we are no longer discussing the same idea.

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  49. Jim,

    A child would make a sympathetic victim too. And the perp would be even MORE despicable! Would you like to see artwork of a child being raped? Wouldn't that emphasize the villainous nature of the perp?

    No, you wouldnt. At least, I hope you wouldnt. I wouldnt. I can tell you that 100%.

    Try to think about the reasons why you wouldnt want that kind of art in your book. Now try to understand how that relates to women.

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  50. I'm not a big fan of the proposed approach - a second boxed set. Selling a second DM-centric product artificially limits you to a fraction of the gaming population. Aren't you trying to run a business here? As a DM, this product would be useful to me and I expect to get it, but I'd have a hard time encouraging my 5 players to go out and get one. One the other hand, a stand alone rule and magic book would be useful to players. Last time I looked, the players seem to outnumber me quite a bit. Maybe you'd only like to sell to 1/5th of your market? I love your work and want to see LOTFP succeed - don't let the love of the craftsmanship cause you to miss out on some opportunities to expand your customers; there's a middle ground to be found there.

    I don't have much to add about the whole violence and art discussion; just that D&D explicitly keeps hit points and damage fairly abstract to maintain the gamist perspective. If I needed visceral descriptions of combat effects, I'd play Rolemaster and use the Crit Tables. You run the risk of the supporting art getting too far away from the abstract quality of what's happening at the game table. Villains and victimization seem like fair game and certainly apply to the inspirational source material...

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  51. >>A child would make a sympathetic victim too. And the perp would be even MORE despicable! Would you like to see artwork of a child being raped? Wouldn't that emphasize the villainous nature of the perp?

    See, this is difficult to answer. Because you're right, but I'm not going there in the same way, because it's an issue of power.

    The only "helpless woman in peril" pic I'm working with has a child defending her against the threat. Otherwise all the female victims of violence are capable adventuring/warrior types, no different than the men that meet a bad end in the art.

    Subjugating a child or any other helpless victims may mark the perpetrator as a villain, but not a threat. What I'm doing with the art is illustrating the in-game danger the characters face... and that isn't served by showing bad guys wailing on little kids.

    Not to say that I'm against the very idea of kids in jeopardy; No Dignity in Death's first adventure had an entire family condemned to death, kids included, that the PCs could save. There's a piece of art for Insect Shrine waiting around that's got the goblin kitchen where the goblins are carving people up for dinner - men, women, and children.

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  52. @johnarendt: Why don't you just download the free PDFs of the rule and magic books, print them out, and hand them to your five players?

    Have you really seen every player in a group buy a copy of the rules for any RPGs except the biggest brands? In my experience, the DMs are the market.

    Although, James has said that LotFPWRPG is first and foremost a tool to get his modules into stores. James is in the business of selling modules.

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  53. I would deal with 'the context of the rest of the paragraph [containing the 'sympathetic victims' line]' if the paragraph were coherent or meaningful - if, for instance, the last sentence had anything to do with the first.

    I'm trying to make several points here. (1) Giving offense is useful, but it's not interesting in itself. (2) Inability or unwillingness to conceive of something other than a continuation of a representational history is not a virtue, nor an aesthetic principle, nor a 'conviction.' (3) The content of aesthetic depiction has (or rather implies, given social context/expectation) meaning other than what you claim to want it to have, and by undertaking the art and business of aesthetic representation, you create for yourself a responsibility to consider that meaning. It's good business and makes for better art. Best of all, you can respect people's expectations and views in the breach - just not heedlessly or narcissistically, e.g.

    (4) when you say, "Obviously I'm hanging out with evil self-oppressing women or something, else I can't make heads or tails out of some of the complaints of online gender-in-gaming philosophers," you're demonstrating a failure of imagination - which is to say a failure of empathy. Generalizing from 'what my friends and activity group like' to 'what everyone else is supposed to like' is myopic; incidentally it's also childish.

    etc., etc., etc.

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  54. Robert - yes, my players do indeed have their own versions of the (free) printed PDFs. If James's goal is to sell books, getting something out there players would buy (instead of freeload) seems sensible. He's got me as a module customer already.

    Whether we're playing 1E, or 4E, or Moldvay Basic, or WFRP, I've found the players always want their current version of the rules, and physical books trump 3-ring binders or the kindle. They're currently WFRP freeloaders. It's democratic and noble to give players freebies, just saying there's a commercial opportunity there too.

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  55. Of course, Carcosa is the elephant in the room here, strapped to a bomb.

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  56. Jim, once again you are ignoring the social context that people bring with them to the table.

    It is very much an issue of power. Women have less of it in the real world. When you are representing that in the art, you are reminding them of it.

    The fact that the victim is strong/capable has no bearing at all. Consider this substituting gender for race; would it be okay to show Africans enslaved so long as they were strong/capable Africans?

    Showing women in subservient/victim roles has an echo with real life, just as showing Africans enslaved does. It brings all the real world context back into the game. And it repulses people who have those feelings, whether they are the minority group or not.

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  57. Heh. I've never understood why people bother with 3-ring binders when books are easy enough to make. (Or have made at a place down the street.) 3-ring binders are great for the things they're meant for, but I agree that they make lousy books.

    Anyway, I get your point, but I'm finding it hard to believe James is going to sell enough "player packs" to make it worth his while. Between the players who are also DMs, the many players who don't need a copy of the rules, the players who are satisfied with the free PDFs, and the fact that the system isn't James' primary product.

    Actually, for me the thing about this whole conversation is this: I think the LotFPWRPG may be the best introductory RPG currently on the market. I'm talking about the kind of thing that a group of kids without any mentors can use to get into the hobby. This direction in the art, however, might keep me from buying it for a niece or nephew.

    But I understand James' desire to differentiate through the tone he would like to convey. And because it is a crowded market, there are other--if lesser--options for an introductory product.

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  58. How petty is it for a man to suppose that I will be offended by a piece of artwork? He must think that I am inherently weak as a person if he assumes that a painting could make me feel like a victim. Please don't impose your victimization ideals onto me; only I can allow that to happen, not you, and definitely not a painting.

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  59. >>Selling a second DM-centric product artificially limits you to a fraction of the gaming population.

    Honestly I think pretty much all RPG products should be GM-centric. Core rules have the most player-centric content but I hate the "multiple purchases needed to have the full game" format and one large book isn't to my taste either.

    I can't think any examples off the top of my head of a "player-focused" book outside of core rules that I've been a fan of in all my years gaming...

    Anyway, I've got a plan to get full groups to all buy in, but that'll have to wait to closer to printing time because I don't want to have to retract a too-early announcement.

    >>Although, James has said that LotFPWRPG is first and foremost a tool to get his modules into stores. James is in the business of selling modules.

    Actually, the economic effect of the box set has really changed how I'm approaching the business... modules will still be coming (and will be pretty much all *I'm* writing for the rest of next year), but the core rules is obviously going to anchor the whole business.

    >>Generalizing from 'what my friends and activity group like' to 'what everyone else is supposed to like' is myopic

    But generalizing "My friends and group activity like these certain things" to "so dammit I'm not going to shy away from publishing it" is not.

    >>Of course, Carcosa is the elephant in the room here, strapped to a bomb.

    I'm releasing it in the spring. Plenty of time to talk about it then. But absolutely no art has been commissioned or even planned or discussed for it as of yet so there's nothing new to say on it yet.

    >>Jim, once again you are ignoring the social context that people bring with them to the table.

    Then so be it. All of the women in the art are not victims and not all of the victims are women. I just decided to stop acting like there's something wrong if I'm not counting to make sure there was absolute balance in the depictions and ignore the guilt that somehow comes with that decision.

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  60. >>>How petty is it for a man to suppose that I will be offended by a piece of artwork?

    Thank you for that comment!

    James, You've full on kicked RPG ass this far with your vision. You know what you're doing so keep doing it.

    How about more of a teaser peek of that digit-less damsel?

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  61. >>Generalizing from 'what my friends and activity group like' to 'what everyone else is supposed to like' is myopic

    But generalizing "My friends and group activity like these certain things" to "so dammit I'm not going to shy away from publishing it" is not.


    Your awesome powers of not-getting-it continue to impress me. Kudos. I'm gonna find something else to do for the next, um, month or so.

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  62. @ Luz

    You are right. My apologies. What hubris for me to fail to consult you for the answer, instead foolishly looking around at how people as a whole react to discriminatory presentation of artwork. Forgive me while I put on my black face and fail to see why black people might be offended.

    /sarcasm

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  63. Way too much discussion of it in the blog post in the first place, and way too much feeding the GregTroll. Jim, do what you want, do it well, and as you already divined you won't be able to sway the dizzy fucks of the world no matter what you do. Let them stay dizzy.

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  64. @dhowarth333 and @Greg Christopher,

    Snuff? Most of us feel you are overstating your case when you compare fantasy violence to watching the actual death of people on film for pleasure.

    I have seen a lot of dreadful horror films in my life, but not only have I never seen a real snuff film, I've never even heard of one. No doubt some perverts somewhere in the world have the real things, but as far as I can tell they must not circulate outside of very closed circles that do not include horror-film fans. For all intents and purposes, they do not exist, except as a rhetorical device people bring up whenever they want to suppress rational discussion by eliciting a powerful emotional reaction.

    Surely we can discuss the subjects of sex and violence in art without such provocative rhetoric.

    There's a lot more to sexism than the depiction of violence against women in fantasy art. By the same token, there's more progress to be made toward a better world by looking at and humanely discussing such art than by hiding it all. Covering up the evidence of racism and sexism and the other ills of the modern world do not make them go away; they just make them harder to diagnose and make better.

    Likewise, not every depiction of violence against women is sexist or makes them into victims. That's far too simplistic, too reductionist. When adventurers don armor and weapons and venture into the mythic underworld in search of adventure, sometimes they die. In a fantasy game, an imaginary game, the risk of imaginary death is part of the reason to play. It lets us explore danger and violence and death in a safe setting, in which none of this is really happening. In that milieu, sometimes our characters will be victors and sometimes victims. Art that hides that in a fantasy game is fundamentally dishonest.

    Finally, I'm surprised Luz's comment offended; I'd hope it would stimulate insight and discussion. Different people respond to the same piece of art differently. Part of the danger of trying to make general rules about what kinds of art should or should not exist or be included in a given work is that it is impossible to sum up how everyone will react. In trying to protect one person you may really upset someone else. We can guess about it, but we can't really know.

    That's part of the reason why a creator is usually better off pursuing his own honest vision of the kind of work he wants to produce than trying to please everyone else - even if it upsets some people - because only in the former case can he actually know his target audience's true feelings about what he's making.

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  65. To recap: Two women (that I'm able to identify as such anyway) have responded to this post. One was completely ignored and the other was told her opinion doesn't count because it's not representative.

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  66. Honestly, I’m not sure how much of the tone James is shooting for fits me. Brutal, disgusting, and disturbing are things I generally try to keep very limited in my game. But I really admire James and Geoffrey and Zak for creating the kind of products they’d like to buy. In my experience, that’s both admirable and good business. Some of them happen to be things I’d like to buy too. Some of them might not be.

    Actually, the economic effect of the box set has really changed how I'm approaching the business... modules will still be coming (and will be pretty much all *I'm* writing for the rest of next year), but the core rules is obviously going to anchor the whole business.

    Cool. I suppose that says something about whether there are too many clones or not. ^_^

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  67. Robert, thank you for the kind words. I hope you check-out my forthcoming Isle of the Unknown. It is not brutal, disgusting, or disturbing.

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  68. Actually I didn't read all of your post. Maybe someday will.
    But you really bore me out man. Trying to justify sexism / hetero-male-normativity, well I just never see it working out. If you're aware of the problems, alos in a deeper sense, you should try to do something about it (moral stems from thought/philosphy, if your behavior doesn't coincide with your morals, change your f*cking behavior).
    And I pretty much agree with this author:
    http://gomakemeasandwich.blogspot.com/2010/12/ridiculous-or-i-agree-with-you-right-up.html

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  69. >>if your behavior doesn't coincide with your morals, change your f*cking behavior

    ... except this doesn't work for creating fiction.

    I would describe my issue here as "creative impulse versus peer pressure" more than "behavior conflicting with morality."

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  70. Ok. After some more reading I realized your post actually makes me kind of angry. I find your arguments absurd, I really do.
    I'll try to take some time this week to analyse your post and statement and write you a good answer and counter-argument.

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  71. @ Greg

    Sure you can be offended, but it's still petty. Now you can also get that sand out of your newly acquired vagina :)

    /hugs

    Let's progress shall we?

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  72. Personally, my elephant in the room has to be the Nazi soldier avatar...

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  73. As a woman, I would like to register my official comment on this as follows: Does this constitute an official policy on the part of "Lamentations of the Flame Princess" of "no boys in cages?"

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  74. >>Does this constitute an official policy on the part of "Lamentations of the Flame Princess" of "no boys in cages?"

    No. I think this constitutes an official policy of "Absolutely everything is on the table."

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  75. LOL "beauty is power." No, power is power. Being harassed on the street, starting sometimes from when you're 8 or 9 years old, doesn't make you feel "powerful." Being told that your job depends on "looking sexy" or giving your boss a BJ isn't power.

    "Beauty is power" = "Waaah, women have the right not to have sex with meeee!!"

    Oh, and yeah, Jim, women are capable of embracing sexist norms. It's called "enforcing the patriarchy."

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  76. Brava, Ms. Daisy Cutter. Just because a couple of women have chimed in in support of sexism doesn't make it not exist, it just means they're complicit in their own oppression.

    My own take is that the title of the original post says it all, and I'm hopeful it's an accurate prediction. I don't think anyone should be prevented from expressing themselves as they see fit, however distasteful the end result. By the same token, I think those who find it distasteful (or worse) should feel free to revile the "artists" responsible.

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  77. Heh heh... I loved how this went from Raggi thematically embracing a horror sub-genre with possible commercial repercussions to talks of "giving the boss a BJ".

    From the posts by some of the repressed feminists here, you'd swear LotFP contains rules to give -4 INT to female player characters and you get XPs for rounding out females and raping them or shit like that

    It's just a particular take on DnD, with the characters facing ugly stuff.

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  78. Dare I ask the feminists why they think that biological women have cornered the market on being victimized by violence? I'm sorry, but the fact that I have breasts will never be a source of shame or weakness to me.

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  79. For the record, none of the freelancers or anybody involved with any LotFP products has had to give me a blowjob in order to get paid.

    I do however confess that appearance is an important element of selecting the reference models.

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  80. Consonant Dude (of course, you've got "Dude" in your name)... as long as you're throwing out words like "repressed," why don't you throw in some more misogynist tropes like "hairy-legged" or "fat" or "lesbian"? Also, I adore the implication that the only valid sexuality is that of clueless straight boiz. If I don't find that sexy, I'm "repressed."

    Luz de Luna, try educating yourself as to what feminism is actually about, because your question is so ridiculous I can't be bothered wasting time on it.

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  81. Also, "biological women," Luz? What the hell?

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  82. I don't suppose it will do any good to ask people to keep this discussion focused on art and whether I'm a complete bastard or not for having the idea that I'm not going to spare women in my quest for TPK illustrations?

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  83. Great post. I cannot wait for the new edition as I never got a chance to purchase the first. As far as the comments go, I find it laughable that people are so married to political correctness that they refuse to believe the reality that women are still in fact treated differently than men in society. Rant all you want, doesn't make it any less true.

    I can certainly see the metal influence in this game, and you're right: why should an RPG be judged suspect if it contains mature themes? Don't buy it if you don't like it. Appropriate art evokes the intended emotion. From everything you've said about the tone of LotFP, not including some weird and/or vile art would make it a cartoonish parody of itself. Weak.

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  84. In general, the more we talk about how other people live their lives and what they believe and whether they are enlightened or ignorant based solely on these brief posts, the less useful our posts are. It is foolish to believe we can tell from a sound-bite-sized post or two whether someone is worthy of scorn or admiration. Most of this anger is misplaced, based on assumptions and projections more than on reality.

    James is right. If we're not going to treat one another with respect, then perhaps we should stop talking about each other and return to the subject at hand, where we have a better chance of being civil.

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  85. agreed.
    as for commercial suicide?
    ask yourself why are family movie choices so limited.
    ask yourself why vid games like halo or grand theft auto are so popular.
    ask yourself what has happened to @merican television in the past decade.
    adult subject matter, including extreme violence and gore has seeped into every aspect of entertainment and i can only assume it's because it is welcomed in society. since the question isn't about moral judgment and is strictly about marketability, i say you're on the money.
    but even if we are talking about morality...this is a fringe entertainment to begin with that promises vicarious violent excitement. if you're going to cry foul concerning violent imagery i've got a 'chick comic' called 'dark dungeons' you'll probably enjoy reading.

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  86. It is a question of both moral judgment and marketability.

    Surely, the marketability comes second, as writing specifically for the market and ignoring all the things in my head screaming to come out would make this job unbearable to do, and therefore downright foolish considering the pay involved. The joy and freedom to express my ideas is the real payoff for me.

    Morality? I do think there is something to there being an issue of how media portrays people, although I don't feel a creator is morally obligated to care how their creation is interpreted. The responsibility lies squarely with the "consumer" of the creation.

    The individual creator should be absolutely free to portray absolutely anything, no matter how immoral, insensitive, or offensive. Yes, the motives for doing so can and perhaps should be questioned (and the creator should damn well have an honest explanation, even if it's not one that people want to hear), but in the end one creator is not responsible for "the media" nor should a creator feel responsible for it.

    However, I can see a problem of aggregation and under-representation where only certain points of view are widespread, obscuring other points of view. Some of these (male domination of how females are portrayed) are obviously more serious than others (why doesn't Iron Maiden get more US mainstream radio airplay? why don't mainstream game magazines review tabletop RPGs?) but the underlying issue is the same - marginalization.

    My answer to the whole problem is not to harangue individual creators for expressing what they want to portray. The answer is for people with a different point of view to create something that represents what they feel needs to be out there, and celebrate those who they agree with. They won't overturn the overall market or media atmosphere but will certainly gather like-minded people to them.

    (in RPGs both the Forge and the OSR have helped carve out a "safe haven" for each of their supporters out of the overall RPG scene - no reason other movements can't do the same)

    ... and if people think they shouldn't have to go through all that trouble to get their point of view represented, no sympathy. Everyone has their own agenda and it's not my job to further yours no matter how righteous it is.

    I went from being functionally homeless to being able to two years later hiring artists that affected my views or art and cool contemporary artists and crafting my vision of what my perfect RPG looks like.

    Every single person that thinks my vision is bad or harmful is probably in a better position to start putting out their ideas than I was when I started. And they can be loud and proud about the atmosphere and ideals they put into their game and have fun dealing with the shits that think they're dumb for it.

    Now of course this "Commercial Suicide" post was a bit of theatrics (I've got multiple years of precedence so nobody gets to start complaining now!) and perhaps overstating what's coming (although at the very least the Locke piece is going to get some inappropriate meters going off the scale) but I wanted to get it out in the early that this will indeed be something a bit different and dark and not have people be surprised by it.

    That, at least, is a true moral responsibility a creator has.

    When it comes out, then people can judge whether it is ghastly and irresponsible or just a of gleeful bad taste.

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  87. Headspice,

    Seriously? You think entertainment is more violent and brutal today? Go through the action films from the 80s of Mel Gibson or Chuck Norris or Arnie Schwartzeneggar. What you'll see is brutal sadistic killers passed off as heroes. Movies have actually gotten better in that regard. Likewise, US society improved - the violent crime rate is a lot lower now than it was twenty years ago. That includes crimes against women.

    Family movie choices limited? Again, what were the great options twenty years ago? On the whole, I'd say there's a glut of relatively kid friendly films today.

    As for treatment of women in popular culture, I certainly wouldn't say it's ideal. But it's a lot better than twenty years ago.

    Getting back to the main point, I honestly think it's a good thing to worry a little about how women are portrayed in games. And the tradition of women as sympathetic victims can insidiously lead to female characters existing primarily as victims/motives for the male heroes.

    That said, I think if you're showing women in a variety of roles (including credibly armored fighter whacking a snake demon) then having one woman as a victim in a scene isn't a crime against humanity. You have to evaluate it in context.

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