Modernizing Fantasy RPGs panel at PAX East 2014

grimdark grippliLuke Crane (Burning Wheel, Mouse Guard, Torchbearer), Thor Olavsrud (Torchbearer) and Adam Koebel (Dungeon World) talk trash about boring (and offensive) ideas in fantasy RPGs while waxing poetic about OSR and indie RPGs. Drawing on over a decade of experience publishing fantasy RPGs, they promise to offend sensibilities and enlighten the curious to worlds undreamed. This panel was recorded at PAX East 2014.

Panelists: Luke Crane [Dungeon Master, Burning Wheel], Thor Olavsrud [Torchbearer, Barrow Wight], Adam Koebel [Kobold, Sage Kobold]

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  1. Interesting that you let Luke echo. Or any of the Forge crowd that was proven wrong about the essence of gaming.

    They don’t understand gaming. It’s that voice in their head they listen to.

    You can get awards and accolades, but who’s really playing your game?


  2. It’s fine if you don’t like different, new ideas, but how can you say they’re failures? Luke Crane’s kickstarter last year for his newest game was funded four times over.

    Personally, I couldn’t get into most of his games (although Vincent Baker and others of the “Forge crowd” have made the only games I play anymore), but he definitely knows what he’s talking about. His panels are always amazing.

    Thanks for putting this up!

  3. Interesting podcast episode. However, “modernizing fantasy RPGs”, I expected more complicated issues to be addressed around problematic gender and race material in the fantasy tradition. There was a small mention of this… but it really wasn’t well tackled. Maybe you can’t really tackle it on a panel full of white dudes anyway… there are some awesome women writing in the fantasy RPG space these days. I’m sure Sarah Newton, who was the main person behind Legends of Anglerre, could have said some really interesting things. It wouldn’t have to have been a “take a gender based analysis route”… but anyway. Too bad.

    Nonetheless, I appreciate you posting it. Thanks!

  4. So… the games where you can literally do anything, change any rule you want, be any crazy combination of characters, just by picking up a pencil and getting your friends to give you a quick “sure, go for it!” That’s in need of a discussion of gender and race discrimination?
    Also, “diversity” isn’t just sets of genitals and skin tone. “White dudes” aren’t stamped out in a machine in a factory. Forty yearsback, half the people you call “white” (Italians, Spanish, Greeks) weren’t considered white either. Take a look at old political cartoons. When they got “into the club,” so to speak, it was through contribution and perseverance, not lectures to make people feel bad about themselves.
    Real Talk advice? If you want to see more representation for girls and other groups? Get them gaming and going to Gencon and other events. Big companies (haha, RPG, “big” company), will see dollar signs, small companies will have that experience normalized, and some of those people you recruit will go on to be future writers themselves.
    I work with the Deaf in an agency, and they had a Deaf Awareness day. It was split into two halves, first was lecture time, all about how bad hearing people were, and history of oppression, etc. etc. We had maybe ten hearing people. Then half hour break, then ABC stories (YouTube), jokes, party games. Guess how many hearing? None? Right!
    The organizers never got the message that if they had reversed the order, all ten of those people would have stayed, because no one likes being made to feel shityy about themselves. So in future, maybe talk about awesome ladies in TTG, and leave off the “of course WHITE MALES wouldn’t talk about that,” stuff.

  5. The title of this one seemed rather odd to me. So did the warnings about giving offense. I felt like the theme was that “modernizing fantasy means capitalizing on the ideas of the past – many of which haven’t reached full implementation yet.” This seemed to be the idea with Pendragon, with the OSR drawing on Basic D&D, and so on. It was a really good retrospective on Fantasy gaming though.

    I felt like the mention of really novel stuff (In a Wicked Age, Polaris, Fiasco, Fantasy Flight, etc) was fairly limited and mostly in the question section.

    @Moshineko, I think you are mixing up the games that can be played with the books that explain how to play them. I think when most people call for more diversity in RPGs, they are referring to the books or the industry that makes them. They mean the art in the books, the example characters – but also the authors working in the field.

    The panelists do touch on this and it really has been one of the issues historically with fantasy and fantasy gaming. I also thought that these topics might be brought up, given the title of the panel, but I guess “Fully Realizing the Potential of Fantasy RPG Mechanics While Appreciating the History of the Hobby” doesn’t really roll off the tongue.

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