We’re All Fascists Now

(Image from Ralph Bakshi’s film “Wizards”)

I’ve been trying to lay low on the politics as of late, but sometimes there comes along a criticism of D&D that is so mind-numbingly stupid that it requires a response, just in case some pudding-head takes it as reality because of the lack of response. All this is just my opinion, of course…

I speak here of yesterday’s pile of bilge from one Michael Meinberg (whom I actually know IRL as a distant acquaintance, as we both frequent local conventions such as Metatopia) entitled How to Make Your Game Anti-Fascist. Buckle up, boys and girls; a Fisking’s a’comin’.

I might be kicking a hornet’s nest with this one, but I think it’s an important topic to talk about. America, and much of the world, has seen a new rise of fascism, in a variety of authoritarian guises. This is definitely a global issue, but all global issues are also local ones, so I think we all have a responsibility to address fascism in our communities.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. Yes, there’s a new rise of Fascism, but it’s coming from people like Mike (can I call you Mike?) who want to tell everyone else what they can and cannot do, say, and ultimately think. The ones who scream (literally) “racist” at anyone who is to the right of Karl Marx, and who absolutely can’t stand Hitler in any way, shape, manner, or form, but seem quite okay with idolizing just about every other homicidal dictator over the last hundred years. People like Mike have zero knowledge of history, being completely ignorant of what real Fascism is, how the present administration is completely unlike it, but also completely ignorant of how their own actions and goals are much more in line with historical Fascism.

Now, on to the meat of Mike’s little article.

There’s no denying that tabletop RPGs and LARPs have a fascism problem. The introductory work, Dungeons and Dragons, is rife with material that appeals to fascists of all stripes, from its treatment of race to its codification of alignment to its fetishization of violence. To make matters worse, many works do not examine their relationship with authoritarianism and fascism and wind up creating worlds and systems that allow fascists to take root and find comfort.

This is simply not acceptable.

Oh, goody. Another ultra-leftist hectoring the rest of us normal people about how we’re not playing elf-games to suit his taste.

“Not acceptable.” Well, that certainly has an aura of finality about it. But before we proceed it must be remembered that when Mike says “Fascist” or “Fascism”, he doesn’t really mean Fascist or Fascism in a historical or even modern political sense. He just means “Republican” or “Trump voter” or “conservative” or “libertarian” or, let’s just come out and say it, “anyone with whom I disagree on politics” (or gaming, apparently). We must always read this article through that lens, and I intend to.

So, that said, does D&D appeal to conservatives, and libertarians, and the rest? Sure! But not exclusively, and the mere fact that someone like Mike also finds D&D and games of its ilk appealing gives lie to his premise right off the bat. I could just as easily make the argument that D&D appeals to Marxists of all stripes, from its equal shares of experience points for all party (!) members to its codification of alignment (seriously, he should love that – in 5E, Neutral Good characters “help others according to their needs” (Player’s Handbook p. 122) – they’re literally quoting Marx!!!) to its fetishization of distribution of wealth (taking gold from those who hoard it in dungeons and spreading it around the villages and cities).

The point being, the game isn’t aimed at any particular political stripe. It appeals to everyone – right, left, Christian, Atheist, and on and on and on.

Fortunately, there are tools available to game designers and runners that can be implemented to help create games that are not friendly to fascists and their ideology. Consider this a primer – an introductory text of its own.

As a note, not all of these strategies need to be used in a given work. However, the more that are used, the less room that fascists will find to engage with the material.

Okay, so moving on from a game that appeals to everyone, Mike is going to offer tips on designing a game that will only appeal to a very specific demographic. A political demographic that doesn’t include Republicans and conservatives and Libertarians, because those people shouldn’t have fun. Or jobs. Or homes. Because… FASCIST!

Emotional Safety Rules

Emotional safety rules are the single most powerful tool in a game’s arsenal to make it unpalatable to fascists. Too many games have a top power structure where the GM or DM or ST or staff have final say in how the rules are implemented and how the structure of the game flows. A GM-centric model is not necessarily a bad one, though, as this allows for the other players to focus on their characters in isolation, and the GM to present the world around them, allowing for reactive and intense play.

The key to making a GM-centric game work, though, is an understanding of the power relationship. All players, GM included, are there to have fun, to explore the world and plots as desired by all participants. However, the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of the participants has to take priority over the details of the game.

By placing emotional safety rules into a game, it provides a defensive measure for all participants and breaks the unidirectional power dynamic. All participants become empowered to make their voices known and to control the flow of play where it matters most. Emotional safety mechanics are seldom enough on their own, but a game without them is a cause for concern.

Dude, with your first rule you’ve not only made your game unpalatable to Republicans and Libertarians, but… most people. RPGs like D&D are games like any other, and they rely on rules. But Mike wants there to be rules that say if you don’t like something in the game, you should be able to change it, because you shouldn’t be upset.

Character death? Don’t be ridiculous. Failure to detect a trap? That’s not fair! Didn’t slay the dragon and rescue the princess? You’re scarring me emotionally! The adventure requires that you hire on as guards for a merchant caravan? DON’T REQUIRE ME TO ENFORCE PROTO-CAPITALIST SOCIAL NORMS, YOU FASCIST!

Avoid Biological Determinism

The idea of “race” as presented in Dungeon and Dragons has become pervasive throughout many works that draw inspiration, directly and indirectly, from it. The idea that a person’s biological origin determines their nature and character is as pernicious as it is dangerous. Racists of all kinds, including fascist ones, speak in similar terms, describing themselves as “race realists” while they deal in biological determinism. There have been many articles discussing the very troubling implications of orcs and drow, but the truth is that any game that engages in this sort of activity is dealing in the language of racism.

Biological determinism extends beyond race, and into gender. While few modern games apply direct statistical modifications based on a character’s race, many do have underlying beliefs about gender roles built into the setting of the game, into the way that the fiction treats male and female characters. Few games even consider that characters can exist outside of the gender binary, though thankfully, they are becoming more common.

No game should have any degree of biological determinism in its mechanics. The idea of a genetic destiny is dangerous and causes real-world harm. As much as genetics do have a role in a person, their role is unique to the individual, as is the result of their upbringing. A game designed to discuss bigotry can have characters putting forth ideas of biological determinism, but they should be signposted as the dangerous ideas that they are, rather than presenting neutrally in the text.

Oh what fresh new Hell have we here…

Elves and dwarves and gnomes can’t be “races” because… anything to do with “race” is bad. Unless they’re an oppressed race, of course, in which case it’s perfectly fine to discriminate in their favor to make up for past inequalities. And unless they’re an oppressor race (well, the oppressor race, because the’re only one, dontcha know, and you can guess which one it is and always will be), in which case it’s fine to institutionally discriminate against them. Because that makes it all fair.

But seriously, I’ve got news for you. Genetics is a thing. It’s not the only thing at all, and end results can be influenced by a large number of factors, but genetics and ancestry is one of those factors. On average, men are stronger than women. Women cope better with stress than men. Asians have higher IQs than Europeans, who have higher IQs than sub-Saharan Africans. On average. Those aren’t political statements, they’re facts, based on statistics averaged over millions of individuals, any one or thousand or ten thousand of whom can end up on the right or left end of the bell curve and defy those averages. But the fact that extraordinary individuals exist doesn’t somehow erase the fact that the averages over all individuals do exist. To try to do away with that by some ideological fiat is just weird. Perhaps justifiable in an RPG (because they by definition are set in a land of fantasy), but then the inevitable result is that everyone would be the same. And that would mean you’re all, well, you know…

I grieve that some people think that Harrison Bergeron is a prescriptive, and not a warning.

The Role of Violence

The role of violence in fascist ideology is complex. Fascist governments are quick to use violence in a top-down way to enforce their government and crush dissent; however, fascists often see themselves as underdogs, thus they can see themselves in the scrappy and weak fighting back against the evils of big government. The common denominator, though, is that fascists view violence as good, necessary, and effective.

It is may not be easy to create a game that does not use violence of any sort, but this is probably the simplest way to go in creating a game that engages in the fascist narratives around violence. Not all violence is bad, though. Sometimes violence is necessary and effective. Sometimes it is necessary to punch a Nazi. Sometimes it is necessary to tear down a fascist government with direct action.

The key to making violence in a game unpalatable to fascists is to make it unheroic. In fascist ideology, the dealer of violence is a great man, a hero to be looked up to, someone who cuts through the polite niceties of society to achieve their goals. Violence is seldom this way in real life. Real violence is uncomfortable and difficult and is seldom applauded, and is never applauded by all.

Games that wish to frame violence in this way must make sure that violence is a thing that can only be done to protect and as a measure of last resort. Making violence too easy and too glamorous leads to very dangerous results, and encourages players to see violence as the ideal solution to their problems.

I already know I’m going to receive some pushback about this point, talking about how I’m opposed to fun. I would argue that making violence fun one of the more dangerous trends in our pop culture. Violence is not fun. Violence is scary, violence is harmful, and violence is traumatic. That doesn’t mean it’s not necessary sometimes, but it’s not fun. Other kinds of conflicts and disagreements are entertaining in their own right.

Some “necessary” Antifa violence. Can’t have people taking pictures!

I daresay that Mike has lost sight of the whole fucking point of role-playing games. They’re escapist fantasy. When you play an RPG, you’re taking on the role of someone in a world where different rules apply. “Violence is not fun. Violence is scary, violence is harmful, and violence is traumatic.” Sure. In the real world. But in the world of the Hyborean Age, or a romanticized medieval Europe (more on that below, alas), or Japan during the Shogunate, or the Federation-Dominion War, or the War of the Ring, or the post-apocalyptic world of Gamma World, or a million other worlds, it is fun to do things that are transgressive, that aren’t allowed (or even possible), and that make the whole game worth playing.

You don’t play an RPG so your character can fill out tax forms, order soy lattes, and stand on line for toilet paper. You play an RPG so your character can kill his enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women.

Decolonization

Applying the techniques of decolonization to a game will help to make that game less appealing to fascists. Presenting all individuals within a game as possessing of independent wills and identities is in direct opposition to fascist ideology, a point brought to particular light by the current “NPC” meme going through fascist twitter. You can find more information on decolonizing games at my post here.

I’m not going down the rabbit hole of his… erm… quirky definition of “decolonization.” It’s not what you think it means, which should be that games are based on European norms. He seems to think it means “people using themes I don’t like”. Well, you be you, Mike. (On second thought, please don’t be you, Mike. You’re an awful human being who’s one revolution away from your own Killing Fields.)

But the ultra-leftist thinks that playing characters with “independent wills and identities” is somehow going to thwart his perceived enemies from liking his game? This just shows up his utter ignorance of  contemporary politics. It’s the people on the right who are the individualists and the iconoclasts. Just watch the 2016 Libertarian Convention if you don’t believe me. The ultra-left? They’re the ones demanding complete ideological conformity (and endorsing and committing violence if they don’t get their way).

Proof: In Mike’s ideal game, if you wanted to play an evil slaver who thought that orcs should rule the world and elves are scum who deserve to be exterminated, that wouldn’t be allowed. In anyone else’s game, that would be allowed. Might not work out that well, but at least you’d be allowed to try. Because it’s a game, and in this sort of game, we play roles that are often the opposite of our real-world personalities.

But that’s not good enough for Mike. You need to be robbed of the choice to begin with.

Who’s in favor of individuality here, Mike? You mean like this stalwart collection of individualists?

Make Fascists Enemies

Finally, and probably most obviously, games that have fascists as an enemy, or the only enemy faction, seldom appeal to fascists. There is a catharsis in taking on and taking out Nazis within a fictional space. In doing so, though, take care to have an understanding of the varied political groups that are aligned into the current fascists. Fascists have their own internal divisions and differences of viewpoints, however united they may be in attacking the marginalized. Making sure that all of these groups are represented in a negative light will assure that none of them will find comfort in the game.

It is also important to signpost that a game will contain antagonistic portrayals of fascists. Frequent content warnings can help maintain the emotional safety of players, and engaging with fascists can put an emotional strain, especially on those not expecting it. Finally, make sure that the fascists remain purely antagonistic. If a player can play as a fascist, then a fascist player will play the game to pursue that option, which is not the desired result.

And here we need to remember who Mike is labeling as “fascists”. Republicans. Trump voters. Libertarians. Gun owners. Anyone who doesn’t support a full-throated ultra-leftist ideology. He’s not talking about real fascists here! He’s talking about you, and me, and your neighbor. The fascists, to this guy’s twisted mind, are the millions of men and women who don’t like his politics. And because of that, they need to be destroyed. And that means making them the bad guys in every context imaginable. Including RPGs.

Plus, let’s not forget that last bit. If you want to play anything other than an ultra-left character, you should not have that choice. Not you personally, but a made-up character in a fantasy game designed to allow you to live out actions that you literally cannot and should not do in real life. If it’s not Politically Correct, you cannot do that, in Mike’s ideal game.

What could possibly be more “fascistic” than that?

Final Thoughts

Fascism is on the rise again. The last time fascists came to power, it took a war to remove them from it. Active resistance against fascists is necessary right now in order to stop them from becoming entrenched deeper again. The media we create and consume speaks to our ideals and our hopes for the future.

Let us work together to make our hopes set on a future without fascism.

Yes, it did indeed take a war. The Cold War. And we won. But now you crypto-Fascists (and let’s not mince words, that is precisely what Mike is) are trying to steal that victory from us. The victory against the ideological totalitarianism of Marxism and Communism. The idea that if one has the wrong politics, one should not only be opposed in the public arena of free speech, but utterly destroyed, denied a livelihood, and forced to recant just to eke out an existence.

Is this too much to worry about? Is this too much ado about a mere role-playing game? No. Because people like Mike insist on inserting their politics into every aspect of life. Every. Aspect. He wouldn’t have felt the need, or feel sufficiently empowered, to write the drivel that I just quoted if he didn’t think it had a purpose. And for people like Mike, there is no purpose other than politics.

And besides, if some of the couple of hundred real, actual, Fascists or Nazis in this country play D&D, how, exactly does that hurt me or you? No more than the fact that some of the many thousands of real, actual, Marxists and Communists in this country do. (And given the fact that Marxism killed at least ten times as many people in the 20th century than Fascism, that is saying something.) It doesn’t hurt me that they play D&D, or that some of them own Hyundais, or that one might be flying on the very same plane as I am 20 rows away. People are allowed to have odious views and still live their lives. I don’t have to like those views, I don’t have to support those livelihoods, but I certainly don’t have the right to say they must be utterly destroyed because they think the wrong things.

The fact that people like Mike apparently do think that people shouldn’t even be allowed to play the same game as him because he doesn’t like their politics, should send a chill down the spine of everyone who still believes in freedom of speech and thought.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

26 thoughts on “We’re All Fascists Now

  1. Wow, amazing. The homogenization is “inconcievable”
    I posted this, we’ll see if it gets moderated into the comments.
    ——
    I think you missed the point of what fantasy and space opera are. You didn’t kick a hornet’s nest, you kicked a black hole. It’s like yelling at actors on screen that do something devious or get two in the hat. They are actors. It isn’t real. They go home and eat cereal.

    A politically correct all equal, everyone is a gold medalist, each according to ability each according to equally assigned experience points?

    While adventuring players should always be treated with respect around the real or virtual table, remember it is a game and outcome motivations may guide a player’s world view, I don’t think “don’t pick on the poor segregated balrog” works as an adventure.

    Now there are games that do well on kickstarter, like “Stigmata, This Signal Kills Fascists” that I look forward to, uses resistance vs non-violent representation of the oppressed.
    Cool, but sometimes I want my lawful evil dwarf to take a skewer at a goody two gauntlet paladin. Each according to a fantasy representation which may be a fun way to release those anti-social thoughts when returning to a better real world.

  2. “And here we need to remember who Mike is labeling as “fascists”. Republicans. Trump voters. Libertarians. Gun owners. Anyone who doesn’t support a full-throated ultra-leftist ideology.”

    Uh… are you not massively projecting here? I’ll admit I don’t read that blog, but the post doesn’t mention the current administration, or any of these things at all.

    How do you know Mike isn’t talking about the rise of actual authoritarian/fascist regimes and parties that’s happening right now (Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Austria, Philippines)?

    1. My advice would be to go to his twitter account and read some of his tweets (yes, it’s a slog). Fun one from September: “If you’re going to write a political game, you should probably have some basic understanding of politics and the ideologies that drive it. Like, for instance, how survivalists, tech libertarians, and Christian theocrats are all core constituencies of American fascism”

      I’m pretty sure it’s not towards Turkey or Hungary that he’s pointing the finger. (or, flipping the bird as the case may be).

      1. Fair enough (though Mike does specifically say he’s talking about a “global” resurgence of fascism, not just in the US).

        He does seem like quite a leftie, but I’m not really seeing anything that would suggest he views “[a]nyone who doesn’t support a full-throated ultra-leftist ideology” as a fascist.

        As for that tweet, I admit don’t really know a lot about American fascism (it’s pretty small), but it’s entirely possible that those three groups are its core constituencies.

        Maybe Joseph has been following the guy for a long time and has knowledge that I don’t? I don’t know. But it strikes me that there are two criticisms here:

        (1) That designing a game to make sure that players don’t see bad viewpoints is stupid.

        (2) That Mike has a wildly expansive view of who is a “fascist” and we should all be afraid because he’s aggressively trying to silence anyone who likes Jesus, guns, or free markets.

        I see support for the first criticism. Not for the second.

        Most of this post, again, reads more like a zany rant at imagined enemies than anything else.

        1. I’m guessing you haven’t had much experience dealing with SJWs. If so, I envy you.

          “Fascist,” in their lingo, is shorthand for “anyone who disagrees with me.” It’s got nothing to do with real-world fascist regimes. They don’t care about real problems—that would take real work. Instead they’d rather virtue-signal by knocking down straw men.

          1. Must be nice to be able to label someone “SJW” and thereby be able to characterize their beliefs however you choose.
            It almost appears that “SJW” is, in your lingo, shorthand for “anyone who disagrees with you” and what you’re doing is virtue signalling by attacking straw men rather than engaging with anything Mike actually said.

          2. —Must be nice to be able to label someone “SJW”
            You learn to recognize them pretty quickly.

            —and thereby be able to characterize their beliefs however you choose.
            I don’t have to “characterize” anybody’s beliefs when they post them on the Internet for me to read.

            —It almost appears that “SJW” is, in your lingo, shorthand for “anyone who disagrees with you”
            Incorrect. Anybody who disagrees with me is welcome to do so, but if their stated beliefs line up perfectly with some known group, I don’t see any point in not calling a duck a duck. To me, SJW is shorthand for “people who pretend to be extremely contrite about their white guilt / male privilege / etc. by grandstanding their wokeness on the Internet instead of doing anything that would require actual effort.”

            —and what you’re doing is virtue signalling by attacking straw men
            I’m not claiming to be standing up for or against anything, least of all imaginary “fascists” who are somehow terribly insidious and yet don’t seem to be bothering anybody. So I’m not sure what virtue you think I’m signaling, but thanks, I guess?

            —rather than engaging with anything Mike actually said.
            The Grognard said everything I would have, and said it much more eloquently.

          3. Fred– I’m not sure this is a terribly productive conversation to have over the internet. Suffice it to say I think you should take a hard look at your eagerness to label people on the left “SJW” thereby and assume what their beliefs are.

            It’s pretty darn reminiscient of how a foolish person on the left might choose to label someone on the right “fascist” and assume that they hold bad beliefs.

          4. I hesitate to reply, because your previous responses make it evident that you’re seeing what you want to see rather than what I’m actually writing. But here goes.

            —Suffice it to say I think you should take a hard look at your eagerness to label people on the left “SJW” thereby and assume what their beliefs are.

            This is assuming I’m “eager” to do so. Like I’m standing on a rooftop with binoculars hoping for SJWs to pop up so I can be the first to point them out or something. On the contrary, I find their beliefs repugnant, so I’m not eager to encounter them. The more innocuous ones are simply virtue signaling to make themselves feel good, but without having to actually go out and do anything virtuous. The more sinister ones are actively trying to destroy free speech so they can set themselves up as the Thought Police. These people are not warriors, and they’re not fighting for social justice. They don’t deserve that title at all, but it’s unfortunately the one that has stuck, so it’s the one I use because I’m incapable of introducing a replacement to the vernacular but still want to be understood.

            As I previously stated, I don’t have to assume anyone’s beliefs when they make them public. If I make a blog post saying “I LOVE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES!” then my cookie preference is now a matter of record. You don’t have to assume it.

            I’m also not labeling people—they’re labeling themselves. If someone parrots all the talking points of a Republican, it’s a pretty good bet they’re a Republican. Same goes for Democrats, Communists, SJWs, etc. I see nothing wrong with pointing out the obvious. I don’t know, maybe there are secret Democrats out there spouting Republican dogma and this would mislabel them, but if they didn’t want to be called a duck maybe they shouldn’t have quacked like one.

            Now, you might make the case that I’m assuming the SJW agenda of trying to destroy free speech, since none of them outright claim such a thing. Indeed, it would be foolish to just come out and say “I want to destroy free speech,” because that would instantly turn everyone against them. But if you look at what they’re actually accomplishing versus what they claim to want, you can plainly see that framing all opposition as “fascism” is just a cheap way to silence dissent. The goal is not to create equality (because some groups are more equal than others under their views), but to establish control. They know they might be beaten in a real discussion, so they seek to preemptively discredit their opponents as Nazis. Nobody likes a Nazi, right? Why, you’d be perfectly justified in assaulting them in the street!

            —It’s pretty darn reminiscient of how a foolish person on the left might choose to label someone on the right “fascist” and assume that they hold bad beliefs.

            Incorrect. It’s reminiscent of how a wise person on the left might choose to label someone on the right “fascist” if that person publicly espouses fascist beliefs.

          5. Fred,

            It’s fair enough to reach a conclusion about someone’s beliefs if they broadcast them on the internet. But you said that this Mike character has a belief that “Fascist, . . . is shorthand for anyone who disagrees with me.”

            I’m curious if you’ve actually seen him state the belief that anyone who disagrees with him is a fascist, or if you’re assuming that he believes that because he’s a “SJW”

  3. It seems that with the SRD and all one could create the perfect non-fascist version of D&D and by its popularity really show the world who is right. Lacking that I have to assume folks like Mike are just virtue signaling.

  4. That whole ‘blog has to be parody, right? Poe’s Law and all? Sprinkled with just enough random thoughts that aren’t pure unrefined SJW Black Tar to make one think it isn’t; a sort of Sokol Report style…?

    Because it can’t be real. No-one can harbor such cognitive dissonance in real life.

    1. I would love to think so, too. But I’ve learned to never underestimate human stupidity. Lost that bet too many times.

  5. The level of self delusion included in that person’s blog is quite stunning.
    The curtailing of self expression as an anti-fascist goal is beyond ironic.
    Frankly he is entitled to game as he pleases, and preach as loudly as he likes, but I can’t imagine is company would be tolerable at any gaming table; where his self -righteous self as total arbiter of legitimate opinion would be the ultimate expression of fascist play.
    I wish him luck in getting that bandwagon rolling…..that tired old bilge won’t run far before it shows itself to be the true vehicle of intolerance that will destroy anything it comes into contact with…

  6. I’m having trouble grasping everything this chucklehead is saying, partly because so much of it seems so contradictory:

    -If fascism is only on the rise now, then how tied into it is D&D really, given that it first became prominent back in the 1970s before the shift to the right, exemplified by politicians like Reagan and Thatcher, came to prominence?

    -He talks about how it’s important not to rely on or incentivize violence…and yet he also mentions how a war was necessary to defeat *actual* facism, to say nothing of the fact that he also mentions how violence can be necessary against Nazis.

    -The whole thing about how “adventurers are evil colonialists out to kill other people and take their money and land” seems to conveniently forget the fact that, most of the time, the orcs, ogres and goblins got ahold of that treasure by murdering some innocent humans, elves or other people first. The fact that the orcs and other humanoid races are just as apt to be colonial, if not moreso, than the dwarves or elves seems to be conveniently overlooked. Mike cites Battlestar Galactica and how its violence is self-defensive…well, isn’t a lot of D&D violence self-defense as well as the players seek to prevent the kingdom from being overrun by the forces of darkness?

    And, if we absolutely *have* to inject politics into everything, wouldn’t the priesthood of Iuz or the Zhentarim make fine stand-ins for fascists as is?

    -As for “decolonizing disincentives”, and the talk of encouraging players to see their goals as just more than personal gain, assuring the sovereignty of less powerful states, and developing NPCs as people…these things are probably already happening in lots of D&D games anyway! These are the sorts of things that DMs can use to come up with fresh plots, for players to have more of an emotional investment in their characters, and overall enrich the experience. People are doing this anyway, even without the explicitly political goals Mike has.

    -And that explicitly political goal is what’s really grating about this. When I want really explicit politics, I go to a political website, I read a newspaper or a book, or I consult social media designed for that purpose. I use fiction as an escape valve from really explicit politics-and like many viewers I see anything really preachy, anything that really beats the viewer over the head with its political message, as a major turnoff. I can’t stand this when the political right does it any more than the political left-and while I certainly don’t mind deeper messages and themes in my entertainment, being subtle about it is usually a far better approach. (It also doesn’t hurt if you satirize the political left as well as the right, but that’s a rant for another day…)

    But explicitly laying out that a game will have a specific political bent, with obvious emotional safety rules (which Mike doesn’t really define) is exactly the sort of thing that would send me and probably a million other players running for the hills. It’s one thing for a player to ask ahead of time if the DM is going to touch on certain things (e.g. if a player is triggered by rape or something like that) or they want to actively explore something (e.g. the player wants to play a genderqueer character, or what have you) then the DM and other players can and should try and accommodate the player’s requests. But that should only be done on an as-needed basis. Otherwise, your pool of willing players becomes a lot narrower.

  7. You’re quoting Richard Lynn on race and IQ. Here’s a quote from his other work:

    “”I think the only solution lies in the breakup of the United States. Blacks and Hispanics are concentrated in the Southwest, the Southeast and the East, but the Northwest and the far Northeast, Maine, Vermont and upstate New York have a large predominance of whites. I believe these predominantly white states should declare independence and secede from the Union. They would then enforce strict border controls and provide minimum welfare, which would be limited to citizens. If this were done, white civilisation would survive within this handful of states.”

    1. Another:

      “If the evolutionary process is to bring its benefits, it has to be allowed to operate effectively. This means that incompetent societies have to be allowed to go to the wall… . What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the populations of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of “phasing out” of such peoples. If the world is to evolve more better humans, then obviously someone has to make way for them otherwise we shall all be overcrowded. After all, ninety-eight per cent of the species known to zoologists are extinct. Evolutionary progress means the extinction of the less competent. To think otherwise is mere sentimentality.”

      1. I honestly don’t care what he said outside of the study. If you want to engage with the contents of the study cited (not quoted, by the way), please do so. There are literally scores of others that confirm the same general idea. For instance, the work of Tatu Vanhanen, which is also cited as a source in the linked article, whom you seem to ignore.

        But saying “One of the people who conducted the study said things that are politically unpalatable, so the whole research must be WRONG!” is the worst sort of weak reasoning. It is literally the definition of the ad hominem logical fallacy – arguing against the man, and not the argument.

        1. I’ve read Richard Lynn. His methodology is questionable, as is his usual publish venue’s peer review process, and he prefers to rely on special pleading when the data doesn’t fit. (I gave up on him when one of his studies “showed” that English school children had a higher IQ than Irish ones, and he started to argue against his own methods.)

          You have just spent considerable time critiquing another person’s piece of writing, going beyond the text to discuss their (perceived) ideology and the broader social movement of which they are a part.

          Yet when I simply point out that an author of material you quote on race and IQ is a white nationalist – which could potentially have a serious impact on its validity – you don’t care, and bringing it up is out of bounds.

          I’ve been reading and enjoying this blog for many years. Thank you for helping me spend my time more wisely in the future.

        2. Isn’t that what you are doing in this post -arguing against the man?
          The RPG hobby has always been friendly, open and tolerant. That is part of the appeal, that we are all welcome at the game table.
          This Mike fella obviously wants to promote a different kind of game to the OSR classics I am so fond of. But hey, if he and his friends like their D&D that way, should the rest of us be outraged?
          I think you may be opposed to his telling others they should be playing D&D just like he does and that should be opposed because it runs against everything the hobby is built around. If I choose to draw heavily upon Tolkien and Howard for my game, that is my choice. Likewise, if Mike and his friends choose to draw upon a very different world view for their game, I can support their right to do so.
          Let’s not all take this down the road of intolerance. This hobby is better than that.

  8. This post has a lot of hyperbole in it.
    I think the stuff you’ve quoted Mike saying about D&D is silly and foolish.
    But it’s qualitatively different from what Mussolini’s blackshirts or Hitler’s Nazis were about. It’s not fascism.
    Seeing as you’re familiar with history, you’re aware of how the “new men” of Fascism or Nazism weren’t whining about how people talk to each other in D&D to perform their virtue for the liberals of their time. They hated the liberals of their time, thought they were weak.
    I don’t think it is common for people to be called racist only because they are not communists. Most people in the west are not communists. Political Correctness is a minefield to negotiate, but that’s not why.
    Mike seems to be the kind of person who says silly and foolish things, but I don’t have any indication that he’s defending homicidal dictators like Pol Pot.
    Not having met Mike or looked at his Twitter, I would have to take your word, provisionally, that what he means by the word “fascist” is anyone who disagrees with him. Or that, by proposing a lot of very silly rules that would mess up a D&D game, he is headed for “Killing Fields.”
    But given all the foregoing hyperbole, I have my doubts.
    I think Mike is set on trying to spoil his own D&D games, but that’s all he can realistically spoil, and it isn’t tantamount to following Pol Pot. Right?

    The hyperbole in this blog post is unfortunate. It contributes to the exact same problem Mike is causing. It makes what could have been a plea for us to maintain more politically neutral spaces around D&D, and makes it read a lot more like a rant against everyone to the left of you.
    Could you stop doing that? Because as someone to the left of you, I might have agreed with you – I don’t think D&D needs to be messed with – even though I think Trump is a terrible President and never should have been elected. (As do a number of Republicans.) But the way you’ve framed this is easily taken to suggest that I’m probably a genocidal fascist villain because of politics, which is really more of the same problem Mike is creating. I don’t have to take it this way, but a lot of people will, and I’ll have to deal with them at the same time as I have to deal with the Mikes of the world. That’s a huge pain in the ass. If you want a center, if you want politically neutral spaces around things like D&D, then don’t exaggerate all the differences, blow things out of proportion, and force everybody to choose sides.
    Otherwise, you’re making yourself part of the same problem Mike is part of.

  9. That “antifa beating a cop” image has been debunked so many times, I am rather surprised anyone still uses it without knowing the Antifacist Action on the back of the jacket is photoshopped on. It has been over a year since it was shown to be an image from the riots in Greece over economic conditions in 2009, all of which is revealed by a quick search on Google. That hardly speaks well of your research skills or integrity, as it was lazy, intentional, or indifferent to the facts employing that image. If you can’t be bothered to get even these basic facts right, why should anything else you write be taken with any degree of seriousness?
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/antifa-beat-up-police-officer-photo-fake-not-real-charlottesville-a7900786.html

  10. A lot of people, both here and elsewhere, have made the (quite fair) point that my posting this merely gives the original guy more press, that he shouldn’t be taken seriously, etc.

    As it happens, today on Rod Dreher’s blog, he posted something that presents the perfect answer to that question. The link is here:

    https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/amor-towles-gentleman-in-moscow-secret-of-a-moscow-wine-cellar/

    It’s well, well worth reading the whole thing, but I would like to quote one piece in particular:

    “That’s what is so distinctive about these cultural revolutionaries now controlling so many of our institutions. They are so intent upon recasting the future from a mold of their own making that they will not rest until every last vestige of the America that they loathe has been uprooted, shattered, or erased.

    “The paradox of our contemporary revolutionaries is that they justify their destruction of particularity in the name of particularity. That is, they denounce and dismiss certain people and their cultural expression as without value, or even as harmful, because those people are bearers of thought and culture now considered counterrevolutionary.”

    If you think this is just one loon with a blog, you’re wrong. If you think it will stop at “presenting an alternative way of playing”, you’re wrong. If you think the end goal isn’t literally preventing people like you and me from writing and playing games that reinforce (or even acknowledge) ideas with which they disagree, you’re wrong.

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