EDIT: After some feedback, I have chosen to edit portions of this essay to better represent how Native Peoples in the USA prefer to refer to themselves. For a more detailed explanation on some of these issues, from a person who is actually directly affected by the use of these stories, see this essay from Dr. Adrienne K.
In the news recently, I couldn’t help but notice a controversy starting over the way author J.K. Rowling has portrayed Native American peoples’ legends of the Skinwalker in the new Potter series. Most of the problem arises from how Rowling has interpreted these legends versus how many Native People’s see the use of their own culture. In Rowling’s vision of North American magic, “Skinwalkers” are Animagi who can willingly transfrom into the shapes of animals to help the tribe hunt or to evade capture by those persecuting them. The so called “myth” at play here was spread by charlatan wizards among the tribes, who claimed Skinwalkers were cannibals, monsters or dark spirits in order to discredit them and disguise their own evil acts/lack of real magical ability.
This is in stark contrast to the living legend of the Skinwalker that the Native American’s believe in. Firstly, it’s important to realize that Native American tribes do not inherently all share the same beliefs and stories, so there are a lot of generally different takes on what these legends mean. The most common understanding of the “Skinwalker” comes from the Navajo, where the creature comes from a witch (that can be male or female, but is classically male) performs a profane rite (or song) that allows them to take the shape of any animal. Skinwalkers do this for nefarious, generally evil purposes to control others with their stare or to murder or escape from their living rivals. Essentially while the tale has a lot of variance, it’s usually always portrayed negatively by Native American’s and considered a cultural taboo.
So what is the problem with how Rowling has interpreted this legend in her story?
Today President Cthulhu began his inauguration speech by doing exactly what he promised to do on the Republican campaign trail: Begin the apocalypse and promptly devour the associated biased liberal media arrayed at the White House. Also sticking to a key election promise, Cthulhu has vowed not to eat the Republican led congress or senate until last – allowing them to experience the full horror of all of mankind being devoured to the very final human (who is rumored to be Ted Cruz).
Many have asked how a candidate, whose main position was literally beginning the apocalypse, could possibly have taken the White House? Most analysts have decided it’s a combination of America simply losing its political sanity after years of cultist infiltration and Hillary’s lack of appeal to left-wing Democratic voters. Indeed, it would appear that perhaps Bernie Sanders may have had a better chance against the Lord of Madness, due to also being a “political outsider”.
Some Bernie supporters explained their refusal to vote for Hillary or indeed, anyone at all:
“I know that Cthulhu is going to like, end the world or something, but frankly Hillary once gave a speech to people at Wall Street. How bullshit is that?”
Another registered Democrat with an “I feel the Bern” sticker said:
“I didn’t vote for Hillary because she’s just another political system fat cat with a hidden agenda. Cthulhu may want to start the apocalypse, but at least he’s honest about it.”
Unfortunately it would seem that democratic voters staying home or even, in some cases, voting for Cthulhu as a protest vote against Hillary, was enough to just tip Cthulhu into power after a tense recount in Florida. Some at the polling booths reported that the scenes were very reminiscent of the dramatic 2000 recount that inevitably gave George W. Bush the Presidency, but this time with “More screaming, mewling and people clawing out their eyes in terror”. Cthulhu’s campaign manager continues to deny sending armies of Deep Ones to register at the last minute to tip the vote in his favor.
Either way, the final count is now in confirming Cthulhu’s victory and Hillary Clinton was damning in her concession speech saying “You idiots?! Don’t you know what you’ve done!? You’ve voted in a gigantic tentacled squid monstrosity of madness and literally opened the seals to the Stars themselves. We are all going to be devoured now!!! MAY THE RATS EAT YOUR EYES!!! THE DARKNESS COMES!!!”
Newly appointed head cultist for the House Republicans New Esoteric Order of Dagon, Kevin McCarthy responded to Hillary earlier this morning, “This just goes to show the level of discourse in this country, where Hillary has to resort to attacking the man… squid man? Octopus man? Octopus dragon man? The Eldritch God instead of acknowledging their own political failures like Benghazi or Obamacare. This is why she lost the presidency to Cthulhu, because she lacked strong leadership and Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fhtagn! Ph’nglui Mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!!!!”
Washington fact checking organization, Politifact were quick to jump on an inaccuracy in McCarthy’s statement afterwards, pointing out that his final outburst was a complete lie. “Cthulhu cannot be both dead and current US President, it doesn’t make any particular sense!”
No matter what happens, we recommend that you hold your loved ones close to you and remember that, no matter what terrified noises of people screaming and scratching at your door to get in that you hear, DO NOT LET THEM IN. THE APOCALYPSE IS NOW HERE AND WE’RE ALL DOOMED, DOOMED, THERE IS NO HOPE. YOU WILL BE EATEN LAST!!!!!! Unless you voted for Cthulhu, then you’ll be right up in front of the line.
You lucky bastards.
If you haven’t already heard, today is “R U OK?” day here in Australia. “R U OK?” is a simple initiative, which asks people to consider if those around them may be struggling with their mental health. It’s actually a very simple question to ask someone else “Are you okay?”, but often the answers can be very complicated and even frightening. Usually it’s a surprise to many how often it turns out their friends, loved ones and colleagues are in fact dealing with some kind of mental illness, significant stress or other complication. Very often the best way to deal with these issues is to start talking about them, or at the very least let others know that you are there should they need to do so. In the most serious cases however, where someone sounds very imminently down and may be in real trouble, you should be prepared to recommend professionals or seek further advice yourself.
For a long time I have dealt with depression and found methods of coping, as I wrote about on the guild before. I am eternally thankfully for people in my life, who have helped to keep me here and assist in making the pain I go through every day bearable. Unfortunately, I also have known a great many people who have been so badly affected and never truly reached out to others. In some cases, they are no longer here anymore and it is always those who are left behind who are left to figure out the “why” of things. That “Why” encapsulates an extremely painful set of questions and issues, which frequently become all anyone has to remember them by. Worst of all is the lingering question of “If someone who had been capable of helping had started a suitable conversation with them, before it got too late, would they still be here right now?” Sadly, I don’t have such answers and there is no simple “This always works!” method to dealing with this.
What I can tell you is that patience and a willingness to listen matter in these cases. Being able to handle everything that someone who is suffering mentally may be going through is not easy, it’s frequently unpleasant and it’s even more frustrating on top of that, but it can do the world of good. Remember that if you aren’t sure, able or willing to help, that doesn’t make you a bad person! It simply means that you need to find someone else who can help, then ensure that they can reach the person who is suffering so they can begin working on a solution. So consider today to ask people you know, even if they aren’t showing outward signs of any pain, “Are you okay?”. The only way to find a suitable path to recovery, is to first start a conversation about where to begin looking for it.
So, are you okay? And if you’re not, then do you need help? Remember that alone there can seem to be no way out, but with another helping hand to pull you up, there is often a solution.
Yesterday my amazing wife got me an incredibly thoughtful present, which she had actually put on pre-order after how upset I was when Sir Terry Pratchett passed away. When it arrived and I opened it up, I was highly excited and a little overwhelmed at seeing this:
This is of course the final book that Sir Terry Pratchett wrote before his death, which gives it a special significance for me. It’s very appropriate that the first book I ever read of Sir Pratchett’s was the first of his discworld novels, The Color of Magic and now the last one I would read is The Shepherd’s Crown – his final novel. I’m really excited to get into this book and see how his final novel turned out for myself. Most importantly, it’s a great reminder of a fantastic author who is sadly no longer with us anymore.
Minding, even though Sir Pratchett is gone now, as he once wrote in Going Postal “Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”
CW: Rape and sexual assault.
I honestly am disappointed to be writing this post and that it is even something I should be writing about a major RPG website like DriveThruRPG. As it is one of the biggest and best sites for getting PDFs of books and other products, I have used it several times to get PDF only books or copies of hard to acquire physical products. Unfortunately they recently decided to host and actively sell a supplement directly about, themed around and focused entirely on rape. This is my open response to them.
I noticed over on The Mary Sue an interesting post about a woman who got into a Dungeons and Dragons group for the long term, but only when playing with other women after bad experiences. While reading the post, I was immediately struck by some of the things I’ve mentioned in the past on this blog as being barriers or issues to women in Dungeons and Dragons (roleplaying in general). Most notably, the author of this piece at the Mary Sue was very dismissive of getting into Dungeons and Dragons on three primary points:
It goes without saying, this post is going to talk a fair bit about depression, anxiety and related issues. This takes up a good part of the first couple of sections of this post, but if you want to avoid the nitty gritty bits of discussing depression and get to the “This is how my roleplaying hobby helped” part, just search for “How I Discovered Roleplaying” and continue reading from there. I give an introduction to how I became interested in roleplaying games, how I started DMing and then how roleplaying ultimately gave back to me by helping me through difficult times.
The Long Battle
Even after almost two decades of an incredibly long and still ongoing battle with depression, I still couldn’t honestly tell you when it precisely “started”. One day the world just got darker, lonelier and harder to understand without any real realization on my part that anything was truly untoward. My behavior became more erratic, my emotions – what emotions I had left – more extreme and I felt an overwhelming sense of emptiness nearly every single day. That emptiness in particular became all consuming and eventually, it became so overwhelming that I slipped towards increasingly scarier places. These places my mind would slip towards were hugely isolating and eventually became extremely bad, which meant that regular thoughts of taking my own life were not uncommon.
This persistent feeling of sadness, worthlessness, anxiety and worse pain were not simply a teenage “Phase”. My depression certainly could ebb and flow a bit, with periods where it was not as severe as other times – but it was always there. Whenever I have thought that it was entirely gone and I would be “free”, it has often come back from even the smallest of openings. To compound on these problems was the fear I had about talking about how I truly felt. Other than a handful of people, I did not speak about how depressed I was and neither did I seek much help. After all, to have emotions like this – as a man in particular – was “weak” and besides, according to the terrible thoughts in my own head nobody cared or wanted to listen anyway. It was a simply self-evident fact that depression and mental illness was a sign of weakness, which you kept buried in the dark or otherwise nobody would respect you.
A refusal to engage with others about how I felt, was ultimately why the worst of my depression was able to continue affecting me and persistently threaten to consume my life entirely. Especially in the times when things became most difficult, where help was needed most and yet it was then that I began to isolate myself the most. Even many years on from this point, with a wonderful wife, a greater awareness of my own condition and a much improved ability to access support networks, my depression is still there. It is not something that can simply be defeated once and for all, but instead it has to be watched, managed and engaged with – not ignored. In saying this, even with what I know about depression and how to manage it, even writing a post like this proves to be incredibly difficult because the old stigma of “depression means you are weak” is still pervasive.
In many ways that is simply because depression is poorly understood, misconstrued and stigmatized in the media, video games and “real life”. It’s also not just a misconception of those who who don’t suffer it, as there are many who suffer from depression who have some of the worst fears or attitudes towards their own health – or even how others experience it.
One thing about the most recent episode of Titansgrave I wrote about, which actually really struck me and got me thinking, was Laura Bailey’s surprise that the “Prophet” was a girl. For those of you not familiar with the setting, Titansgrave has a backstory where a powerful woman and prophet of sinister forces arose, causing a massive conflict called the “Chaos War”. This war only ended when a team of plucky heroes – naturally – defeated her and then sealed away her essence in an extradimensional prison. During the war she was usually referred to as “The Prophet”, which is a rather ambiguous title and the term “Prophet” can be used for either a male or female. The interesting thing about what happened isn’t that Laura was confused, it’s just how it highlights something about how we typically view characters – especially powerful ones.
Being male is regarded as the default and it’s something I’ve noticed for a long time in my own games. In many cases if I don’t explicitly gender a character, usually with a feminine sounding name or pronoun, most players will tend to assume they are male until told otherwise. The assumption isn’t an inherently negative one, it’s just something that exists and it can lead to situations like what happened in Titansgrave: Players can be genuinely surprised to find out that their enemy/ally is actually a woman. A good example is in Trail of Cthulhu when I first introduced the character of Smile, where most of the players assumed it was a he until their characters directly saw it was a woman.
This post will contain a lot of discussion about Avengers, Age of Ultron and will go into quite a few plot points, character arcs and other things in detail. In short it’s going to be entirely filled with a ton of spoilers and so should be avoided by anyone who has yet to experience the movie yet!
One of my players the other day asked me what my favourite systems were and why. After some thought, I figured it would be worth a post at least and so here are my top 10 roleplaying systems. In many ways the more I’m running something currently or planning to in future, the higher it will appear on this list: After all I tend to run the games I love the most!