There are many phenomenal tabletop roleplaying game kickstarters occurring presently, as can be seen in the latest Kickstarter Wonk article, but one that particularly stood out to me was one that centered around a very specific and intriguing concept.
Preparing For Paris is a game where you play discontinued Olympic Sports, personified as high school students, training to become once more an Olympic Sport. They will also do, as teenagers in high school are likely to do, all the humdrum of adolescence that comes with it.
I sat down with PfP’s creator, Logan, to discuss his new (and fully funded) game.
We all know the series. The one with the boy who had a scar upon his forehead. The great tale of a chosen one and their band of friends going off to challenge the far too powerful evil and bring them to reckoning. It’s a story that spawned millions of fanfictions and fanart. Millions more in profits off spin-offs and merchandise. Oh! It’s also responsible for slingshotting a violent and disgusting transphobe to having her hateful opinions validated and listened to by wide audiences and those in power.
Yes, the Harry Potter series cannot be detached from the many actions of harm done by its creator. Death of the Author is an act of cowardice when used to simply continue liking something without ever fearing being criticized for it. There’s also the fact the books themselves are far from free of her problematic ideals. Be it the depictions of Goblins and the valid issues the Jewish community brought up in how they are portrayed in relation to harmful stereotypes of them. The oppression tourism and mishandling of the topic of slavery with relation to house elves. And many, MANY more that could fill up the brim of this article.
All in all, JK Rowling is not someone anyone should try to emulate. But that leaves the question of what should be done with the books that had such an impact on so many throughout the world. Harry Potter is something we can’t simply do away with. People will have the idea of it, of how it can be done better, on their mind quite often. So, what do we do?
Well, I don’t have the answer. I’m not a smart or genius woman. The fact I just used two words that mean the same thing separately should show that. But when it comes to RPGs, we may have the answer for how to quell that Harry Potter craving without having to whip up your own homebrew. And most importantly, how you can do it better than that shoddy TERF ever could.
I’ve recommended a few Masks: A New Generation actual plays at this point. From the amazing school days of Unlabelled. To the always entertaining and oft-times bizarre Critical Bits. And these stories, for all their hilarity, are no strangers to dark moments. However, today we are going to be talking about an actual play that began as something quite light only to transition to a very real dark side. And did it oh-so-well.
Today, we are going to be talking about Rollout Podcast. In particular, we are going to be talking about their longest running and, in my opinion, the most beautifully painful series: The Young Vanguard.
Right now, brave protesters across the world are standing up and fighting for the rights of the far too often overlooked Black community, campaigning to dismantle white supremacy and ending the authoritarian reign of police brutality. And we here at Cannibal Halfling have nothing other than complete and utter respect and support for these brave protesters. And many others are stepping up to help support these courageous fighters. In particular, today we are going to talk about the Itch Bundle For Racial Justice and Equality.
Clocking in at currently over 1000 games (it started with 700+), this bundle can be yours for a five dollar purchase. Of which all proceeds go towards NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Community Bail Fund, split evenly. As of this writing, it sits at an amazing $2.8 $3 million accrued so far.
This an amazing bundle of games that has a commercial value of over $3000, all for $5. Some of these games alone are worth five times as much as the bundle by themselves. But, the amount of phenomenal products you get for your donation can be overwhelming to sort through. So, these series of Spotlight articles hope to help sort through and show which ones would stand out the most to your interests. And while you’re buying it, consider buying some as a gift to your friends. Or paying above the minimum.
Now, it should be no surprise to anyone here that I enjoy podcasts. I cut my teeth on My Brother My Brother And Me for my early beginning. Have listened to the occasional intersection of that interest and my love for pro wrestling in podcasts such as Wrestlesplania. And may even be starting my own. But that’s an article for another time. What this article is about is the amazing phenomenon that has exploded in the RPG community. The thing that nearly all of us have at least one of us listening to. A fun endeavor that both enriches us and inspires others to listen.
What I’m talking about is actual play podcasts. You may have already read some of my earlier podcast reviews or other articles about podcasting and RPGs. But this is going to be a bit of a roundup of them. A brief list of a select few all put together to maybe put the thought “Hey, this would be a fun listen” into your head.
When I first came out, it was a strange time. I had to cope and come to terms with a great many things. Some of them very good. “I can finally wear the clothes I want to.” “People calling me she and her is AWESOME!” “I can be me.” Some of them less so. “God, I was a real little shit before this wasn’t I?” “I can’t tell this person yet. Don’t know how they’ll react.” “How long before I can start hormones?” All in all, it was a wild time. And while things have calmed for me and my transition at this point, there is always one thing that weighs above all else in trials I may never come to terms with.
I never got to grow up as a girl.
I’ve heard it called “The Youth that could have been” from other trans folks who came out older like I did. It happens to quite a few people who have experienced trouble or different from the average childhood. It’s one where you’re constantly thinking about things could have been, How they should have been. It’s one of wondering of “what-ifs” and “why couldn’t it haves”. It sucks. Royally. You look for any out or avenue to get away from the pain of it. From the constant imagination of the childhood you never got to have. That imagination tends to go wild and overpowering.
But. You know what else requires a good imagination? You guessed it: roleplaying games.
You and your friends gathered around this place today for something special. To participate in a spectacle than you would never quite see in our daily lives. A story being woven, of valiant heroes, with strength as fierce their virtues. Of the dastardly villains, imbued with a ferocity of their wickedness. You will witness villains become heroes. Heroes become villains. The brutalist of battles. Mightiest of hugs. The bitterness of betrayal and the triumph of cavalry. This is a world where everything gets just a little bit more magical.
This is pro wrestling.
Now, while the surface level of the two may seem to have very little in common, I’ve honestly found that my knowledge of pro wrestling has helped me become a better GM for my players. Pro wrestling is the world but amplified. The emotions. The dramatics of pain. The sweetness of victory. Everything has the knob grasped and twisted all the way over. Which, let’s be honest, relates well to RPGs.
As you may have guessed from my previous articles, I enjoy podcasts. RPG actual play podcasts in particular. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the occasional stream. But podcasts have just such a relaxing quality to them that I can’t understate. The fact you just whip out your phone, pop in some headphones and throw one on. It’s fun to have these stories pour into your ears.
And, as you may have also noticed, I enjoy Masks: A New Generation. It’s easily my favorite RPG and in my opinion, does the best job of emulating superheroes of any tabletop RPG on the subject. It’s just good teen superheroes that are a mask (See what I did there) for the angst and drama of teenage life.
So it should come as now surprise that Masks actual plays are one of my favorite things in the world. I was waiting on bated breath for season 3 of Young Justice for so long, and discovering there’s a whole catalogue of stories that deliver the hits of that show so regularly was more than welcome.
And when James Malloy of Protean City Comics and Stop. Hack. And Roll! Podcasts set up a cross podcast tournament based around voting polls for Masks podcasts, I was ecstatic. I was writing fanfics, interacting with the community and making memes (God, did I make so many memes) left, right and center on Twitter. It’s an amazing time to see a community come together to just have fun.
And I thought:
“Hey! I write articles on awesome subjects. And this is an awesome subject. Why don’t I write an article on this?”
And surprise, surprise, I did! So sit back. Relax, Open up a favorite drink. And maybe you’ll find a podcast here to listen to.
Spiderman in the Marvel Comics has had a lot of memorable foes. From the more comical such as Shocker and Rhino. To the deathly serious in Green Goblin and Kingpin. Peter Parker and his many fellow Spider-Folks have no shortage of villains who left a mark on the minds of fans. But for me, it was always one villain that was memorized in this ol’ skull the most. Or rather, as I soon came to discover, a group. More like a plague when you think about it.
The Symbiotes. These alien menaces would bind to the most heroic of crusaders, granting them a boon of immense power. At the cost of what made them so heroic. They would prey upon the impulses that, in moderation, make us human. Anger. Hate. Jealousy. Pain. Only, they weren’t content with those impulses remaining moderate. They would take the knob and wind it all the way up to the max. These symbiotes would turn heroes into villains.
And as a kid, that both fascinated and scared the ever living hell out of me. These beings were like the zombie virus storylines on adrenaline. They don’t just turn you into a monster. They do it slowly. They whittle away at who you are, amplifying the parts you’d rather forget and minimizing the aspects you hold dear, bit by bit. They turn your love to obsession. They turn your courage to fanaticism. They turn you into…..well, NOT-you.
And when I think of the idea of horror stories in Marvel, I can’t get closer than the idea of a well done symbiote story. Barring Immortal Hulk, cos that’s friggin’ amazing.
So, let’s discuss how to do a symbiote story in Masks. Let’s discuss horror in Masks: A New Generation.
Us RPG fans are a creative bunch. We kind of have to be for this hobby. It’s the lifeblood of it, isn’t it? You gotta think of what your character says when their best friend reveals a deep dark secret to you. You need to come up with a quick witted comeback to an insult from the mercenaries in the tavern who are just begging to have their teeth kicked in. You embody a character. And that requires creativity.
And the thing about creativity? It’s entertaining. We’ve all shared a deep laugh when someone at the our game table makes a joke that just fits so well for that scene. We wait on baited breath when our players finally confront that baron who’s been making their lives hell. We see these stories being played out in front of us. And even when we are not directly participating, it’s fun. It’s engaging. It’s a story.
And what’s to stop us from letting those on the outside of the table engage with these stories too?