D&D petition update

Some of you may remember that last year I created a petition asking Wizards of the Coast to make the art in D&D Next more diverse than that of previous editions. The petition closed in February, it got 650 signatures, and since then I have been trying to get Wizards to give a response to the petition.

I made contact with Wizards’ PR guy John Leroy in April. The fact that the only public contact point with Wizards is a PR company didn’t exactly fill me with hope, and unfortunately my fears turned out to be justified. After asking me to send him the petition, John entered radio silence. I’ve chased him every few weeks since I sent him the petition, and he has failed to reply (and yes, I did check my spam box).  I darkly suspect that the petition never made it past the PR department.

I think that when hundreds of your customers tell you they want something you should at least give them a respectful response. Ignoring them outright – well, let’s say I’m not impressed. I don’t necessarily expect them to change their art policy (though obviously I want them to) but to ignore the petition outright shows a lack of respect.

I would encourage those who signed the petition (or anyone who thinks they ought to reply) to contact John Leroy at 360 degrees PR. His email address is jleroy@360pr.com. (Note that this is a corporate address, not a personal address; I would never share a personal email address in this way.) Alternatively you could tweet them at @360pr, perhaps including Wizards customer service @Wizards_CS. Let them know your views.

Disaster Strikes! is now available

I have finally completed a post-playtest version of Disaster Strikes!

For anyone who hasn’t been following the designer diaries, Disaster Strikes! is a game modelled on disaster movies. You create a threat, escalate it almost to the point where it is unstoppable, and see who can get out alive. Your small group of Protagonists are the only ones brave, competent and heroic enough to save countless innocent Bystanders from their doom.

The game takes around 4 hours to play, and is “zero prep” which in this case means all the set-up work is done in play, and should take only a small fraction of the total play time. It is not GMless – one of the players will be the Disaster Master (DM), charged with pushing the disaster forward and putting the Protagonists and Bystanders in peril.

Please do share the link to the game, and if you play it I’d be interested to receive any comments you might have.

Disaster Strikes!: Call for playtesters

If you’ve been following Black Armada for a while you’ll know I’ve been working on a game called Disaster Strikes!

DS! is a game about a major disaster, like an earthquake, terrorist attack or zombie plague outbreak, and the actions of ordinary heroes who fight to save innocent lives in the face of it. It’s designed to simulate disaster movies like the Towering Inferno, Volcano! and Aliens. (In this context, Aliens is a disaster movie, because it’s about an uncontrollable threat which our heroes can only desperately try to contain or flee from.)

The game can be played light-hearted and silly (think Shaun of the Dead) or tense and serious (The Poseidon Adventure, maybe.) Either way, it’s a fast-paced and deadly game where there is a real possibility of failure. The game is designed to tolerate player character death – even when you die, there’s stuff for you to do.

The game is designed to be played as a one-shot, of around four hours in length. It works with 2-6 people, but is best with 4.

The game is now ready for beta playtesting. I’ve already playtested it in a safe environment, with considerable success. But no game should be published without first being tested by someone other than the designer. So this is a call for playtesters. If you’d like to take part, please drop me a line at rabalias (at) vapourspace dot net, or leave a comment here, and I will send you a playtest pack.

Vote for Black Armada in RPG Geek’s 24 hour RPG contest!

I’ve been meaning to take part in one of RPG Geek‘s RPG design contests since I found out about them, so when I noticed that their 24 hour RPG contest overlapped with my week off, I jumped at the chance to take part.

The result was Farmtopia. The game is about revolutions, and is (loosely) based on George Orwell‘s Animal Farm. You play farm animals who will rise up in revolution against the farmer, and subsequently have to deal with the moral, social and practical problems that arise under the new regime.

It’s a rules-light, GMless, zero prep game. The bulk of the game is concerned with providing a premise and structure for your game, the only rules being a very simple conflict resolution system based on voting and a status system which determines who is in charge in the farm and provides the potential for politicking and counter-revolutions.

It’s silly of me, but I’m most proud of the two-page spread listing all the farm animals you can play and how they might figure in a revolution. That and the art, which I did myself and some of which isn’t too bad if I say so myself.

Farmtopia is only one of 38 games produced for the competition, and they’re all available for free here. Some of them look quite good. Please do go and take a look, and vote (ideally for Farmtopia, but whatever).

If you’d like a look at the game but don’t want to vote, it’s available in our free games section.

Black Armada at Indie+

So, I’m going to be attending Indie+, the online roleplaying convention, and running a session of my forthcoming disaster movie game, Disaster Strikes!. If you fancy a spot of roleplaying over G+ hangouts on the afternoon of Sunday 4th November, do sign up!

The game is at 14:00-18:00 (Western European time, which is 09:00-13:00 on the East coast of the US and somewhat less sociable hours if you’re situated further West). Details are here.

I’m also running DS! at Furnace. This will be the first outing for the game where the players aren’t all my friends, so I’m a bit nervous. Nervous, but excited!

Petition roundup

So, the D&D Petition is going strong at nearly 600 signatures thus far. Several blogs have given help with boosting the signal on this – go have a look at what they’re saying if you’re interested in this issue.

Admiral Frax just posted about it on Gaming As Women, the Ennie Award-winning feminist gaming blog.

Smiorgan has posted about it on the always-interesting roleplaying and geeky bibble blog Department V.

YA author Rhiannon Lassiter posted about it on her blog.

Oxford University academic and senior Oxford roleplaying society member Mason Porter posted about it to his blog.

This is in addition to the many people who have shared the petition through social media. Many thanks to everyone who is helping to support the petition. Please do let me know if you know of anyone else who has been promoting it.

Diverse Dungeons (& Dragons)

I have started a petition at care2.com – why and what I’m calling for is below. The petition is here – if you agree with what I’m saying, please sign it, and please share it with your friends. We know that WotC don’t respond to reasoned argument alone, which is why it’s vital that we show them how many potential customers they’re pissing off.


Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is the single most famous roleplaying game in the world, the route most people got into the hobby, and the flagship of the hobby. So it’s a tragedy that the game is pushing away potential fans through artwork and even game text that is overwhelmingly focused on one customer: the white male. This petition calls on Wizards of the Coast to improve this for the next edition of D&D.

  • We want to see artwork that reflects the diversity of the real world
  • As a minimum, 50% of people depicted should be female
  • As a minimum 20% should be non-white (in line with the population of the USA)
  • Such characters should be portrayed as no more submissive or weak on average than white male characters
  • WotC should lose the text that describes demihuman races as exclusively pale-skinned.

Please sign this petition if you agree.


More detail for the curious cat

60% of images in D&D 4th edition (specifically the DMG, PHB, PHB2 and Adventurer’s Vault) were of men[1]. On a range of measures designed to pick up on sexist depictions (active vs neutral stance, whether the character was fully dressed and whether the image was sexually suggestive) D&D scored badly, with well over a third of images hitting any given measure of sexism[1].

There was only one image of a non-white human character in the D&D 4th edition core books[2], and across the core books of all four numbered editions of D&D only two non-white human characters depicted [2,3]. Even the nonhuman races seem to be dominated by paler skin tones; looking at the playlet material for D&D Next, the nonhuman races available to play were stipulated as having skin tones consistent with a white human, with the possible exception of dwarves who are permitted to be “light brown”[4].

It’s only a fantasy. But it’s our fantasy and we can make it whatever we want. Everyone should be able to open a D&D book and not feel excluded. Wizards of the Coast are very likely saying behind closed doors “white male heroes is what our fanbase wants”. Well, then it’s up to us, as the fanbase, to tell them they’re wrong about that.

D&D Next is in development right now. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape the game. Most of the buzz has concentrated on mechanics. But there’s no reason why the game can’t take leaps forward on diversity as well.

What we are asking for

We the undersigned call upon Wizards of the Coast to make D&D Next at least as diverse as the real world. We want to see men and women of all colours in the artwork. And we want the fantasy races to reflect the full palette of human experience, too. Even though some of us are white men, we aren’t going to be put off our hobby by images of people that aren’t – in fact, just the opposite.

The USA represents the biggest market for D&D at the time of writing. As such, this petition proposes a minimum standard that reflects the demographics of the US. 50% of images containing a humanoid creature should be female, and where applicable 20% should be non-white. It is also important that these images should avoid displaying these characters as submissive or weak, or at least no more so than white males. Finally, text describing demihumans should be rewritten to make them as diverse as the people who play the game – not restricted to white skin-tones.

[1] From Anna Kreider’s article here: http://www.pelgranepress.com/?p=3501

[2] Robert Sullivan’s video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utsvMDewdUA&feature=plcp

[3] Chris Van Dyke’s article here: http://raceindnd.wordpress.com/2008/11/18/nerd-nite-presentation-november-18th-2008/

[4] Chris Stone-Bush’s article here: http://www.doucheydm.com/?p=1043

House of Ill Repute

I have completed work on my Fiasco playset, House of Ill Repute. Set at the heart of the UK Government in Westminster, it allows you to play politicians, bureaucrats and journalists with big ambitions and poor impulse control.

For those not familiar with Fiasco, it’s a GMless game in which the players collaborate to create a train wreck story about big plans gone disastrously wrong. The game is organised into playsets (many of which are available free at the link above) which provide random tables of story elements to get you started. You spend the first half of the game making a (usually very bad) plan and the second half smashing it to pieces. Mostly, the characters come of very badly by the end.

There’s a great video of some sample play over at TableTop.

You can download House of Ill Repute for free from our Free Games page. If you play it, let me know how you get on.


Mid year review

At New Year I broke a habit of a lifetime and made some resolutions. I’ve never done it before, because I’ve always thought that you should either get on and do something or not bother at all. However, research has shown that you’re more likely to do something if you publicly state that you’ll do it, and that people who regularly set themselves goals get further in life than those who don’t. So what the hell, I thought.

Anyhoo, this is my review at the mid-point of the year of what the heck I’ve achieved from the list.

1. Play at least ten games (roleplaying or board) that I have never played before.

Since New Year I’ve played three new board games:
– A Game of Thrones board game
– Cosmic Encounter board game
– Qwirkle
…and six roleplaying games:
– Apocalypse World (sort of – I’ve played two first sessions thereof)
– Archipelago II
– The Extraordinary adventures of Baron Munchausen
– Lady Blackbird
– Microscope
– Trollbabe

2. play a full roleplaying session, not just a one to one, entirely over Skype (or G Chat).

Not done. In fact I’d forgotten about this one, which is a poor show on my part. Glad I had this mid-year review thingy.

3. Read at least ten sci-fi and/or fantasy authors I’ve not read before, including at least five women.

Since New Year I’ve read:
– Spin State by Chris Moriarty (technically I started this in 2011)
– Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
– The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
– This Alien Shore by CS Friedman
– The True Game by Sheri S Tepper
– Faith and Fire by James Swallow
– The Windup Girl by Paul Bacigalupi
– Green by Jay Lake
– A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M Miller Jr.
…and I’ve started Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey.

4. Write a complete roleplaying system.

I’ve been working on this with Frax and Chrestomancy. Project Quick Draw is currently in alpha playtesting.

5. Complete my murder mystery for Undying King games.

Not done. No progress made so far this year… but there’s plenty of time left.

In short I’ve made a lot of progress in trying new things and somewhat less progress in creating new things. Though having said that, I’ve also written a Fiasco playset (will be published here soon) and launched Black Armada, both of which probably ought to have been on the list. Fingers crossed I can complete the rest by year end.