Thursday, April 7, 2016

What Not To Be - Removed!

By me.

Nobody removed it on me, but after some consideration I decided to take that section out of the players handbook. Why?

Because just this past weekend my sister and her family came down from New Jersey for a visit. We decided it would be fun to take them to St. George Island for a picnic on the beach. To get there you have to drive through the quaint hamlet of Carrabelle, FL, where in the center of town a new billboard has gone up...

It wasn't discussed.

I'm sure we all saw it and I'm sure we were probably left thinking the same thing - glad I don't live here - which is sad because Carrabelle is actually a pretty nice place. I know a few people who live there and I'm pretty sure they are not getting drunk and raping their daughters on the weekend. Still though, something must be going on to warrant this huge PSA billboard in the center of town. Is there something in the water? Are all the hundreds if not thousands of homes of people I don't know actually housing some demented hillbilly rape cult? Carrabelle is a predominantly white place. Could it be that the sign only pertains to black people? They chose a black girl to be in the picture, maybe this means that if you're white you're alright, but beware of the black people in the area - they are not who they seem to be.

The imagination reels.

Or it could just be that someone somewhere received enough funding to make the world a better place by bringing awareness to a problem with a billboard. They may not live in Carrabelle or even know of the place.

Now, I don't doubt that this sort of thing happens. This is Florida after all. However, the problem is a matter of perception and frequency. Studies have shown that smoking leads to cancer, and so the warning label on a pack of cigarettes is warranted. But the warning label on this town - and that is what it is no matter what the original intention may have been - I highly doubt has been backed up by a serious study. Undoubtedly there have been cases reported and the people involved should seriously seek help, but when compared to how many people live in Carrabelle it probably represents a fraction of less than one percent.

I don't know.
I don't have the time or money to do a credible study either.

To get back to gaming. I pulled the "What Not To Be" section from the PHB (you can still read it here on the blog) not because I disagree with it but because I feel it may be sending the wrong message by being in the core rule book. This is just too prominent a position for it to have.

Over the years I have encountered all of the denizens mentioned, often inhabiting actual friends from both in and out of gaming. But here's the deal. Nobody filled those roles all of the time, and it is all from back in the 80's when we were young irascible munchkins just looking to make dicks of ourselves. During my next big bout of gaming in the 00's I encountered none of this. We had a small group of players who were just looking to have fun and at nobody's expense. Not once was the matter of "not being a dick" brought up, because it didn't need to be.

So I still think that you shouldn't be a dick and you should always use deodorant, and there will always be some asshat just looking to make a splash by being the dick who never uses deodorant, but most of us are grown ups. We're good people who never needed to hear such advice in the first place.


  1. A shame. There's some good advice in there! Will there be a replacement? Maybe something with a more positive connotation, like they use to have in such books (you, know, assuming a mature reader and telling him that there actually is a responsibility to be nice to each other ... something like that)? I totally understand why you'd skip the whole thing, though. I'll have to talk about the dark side of Christianity and slavery in a historical context for Lost Songs rulebook and I'm not that psyched about it either :) Gotta be done nonetheless.

    1. I don't know. It's a tough situation. I think it was the White Wolf games that told people to not LARP using real weapons. Good advice but it makes you wonder about the people who do play the game. Like I remember a friend talking about finding firecrackers with "do not put in mouth" written on the label. Who on earth does that?

      The dark side of Christianity and slavery in a historical context? That's the kind of thing you mention in the Game Masters Guide and hope that nobody notices until after they've invested themselves in learning the game.

    2. Well, I know oWoD at least had a disclaimer that vampires aren't real :)

      Yeah, it sucks a bit that those topics are sort of tabooed, because just ignoring them doesn't solve them (or, say, open them to discourse). Well, we'll see. I'm as far from a final written version of the game as they get. All I know is that I'm gonna have this in the setting description somewhere, which will be separated from the rules themselves, so I don't see a problem ...

      Anyway, I'm not even sure people will read it or even play it, so the only thing I can say for sure is that some sort of advice about etiquette at the table is something I'd like to have in a rule book. If it's ignored, it's just as well. But there are things that should be said, IMO.

      And it's a very American thing you describe, the poodle in the micro wave and all that :) People got rich because of those trials.

    3. You bring up a good point, I'm not sure if anyone is going to read or play my game either. In one form or another (I have a terrible habit of becoming dissatisfied, knocking it to pieces and rebuilding from scratch) I've been working on it since circa '92, and have yet to have any luck play-testing it. People want to play the games that they either already know or the ones that are currently wrapped up in some big gaudy advertising blitz which is causing everyone else to talk about them.

      And of course, the games they already know are often the ones they began playing long ago because of an earlier big gaudy advertising blitz - something I could never pull off.

      So why the hell am I doing this?

      At this point I'm just doing it to bring it to an end, to get to where I can have something printed that I can put on the shelf and take down every now and then and satisfy that urge to know "what the hell was I thinking?"

      So in a way it is an artistic statement of sorts. It can be played and I'd be thrilled to know that somebody somewhere is actually playing it, but its real purpose is just to be there. All of my ideas on tabletop RPGs distilled. It's Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine but made with dice.

      If that's the case then the "What Not To Be" should be in there. I shouldn't care so much about people's inherent urge to find any reason to put a book down after picking it up.

      And yet I do, I always do....

    4. You could make a "Deleted Scenes" chapter, though :) Would be lots of meta and whatnot to have a chapter about "what didn't make it into the book and why", but this way you could have it in there without, you know, having it in there. It could work :)