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Tabletop Tuesday – RPGs are Done with Edgelords and Bigots

Like my article before, on Geekdom and Broflakes, tabletop roleplaying games have been a microcosm of the divisive politics and social issues plaguing our society. From the OSR vs. Storygame divide (one I still don’t fully comprehend) to accusations of bigotry and sexual assault, TTRPGs haven’t been immune to controversy.

Like GamerGaters, Sad Puppies, Star Wars “purists,” etc., the industry is rife with the worst movements or individuals. Internet trolls and faux-centrists spout the same rhetoric as white supremacists and the alt-right in their bid to keep “social justice warriors” out of their hobby.

Luckily, as the movie, television, and video game studios reject their worst “fans,” so too does the RPG world. Things may not be perfect in this corner of geekdom, but the recent backlash has shown that the vast majority (from gamer to designer) is simply done with a segment of the population.


Here’s us being done with your bullshit.

Although recent events have been the most tumultuous, the beginning of the end was seen in #DnDGate; a weak attempt to copy GamerGate into the RPG community. The claim was that Wizards of the Coast and D&D were “infiltrated” by leftists, progressives, and social justice warriors, who were twisting the game to their agenda.

Given who led the charge, and how much these individuals supported the original misogynistic movement, this ridiculous claim wasn’t shocking so much as eye-rolling. Especially given the “agenda” of things like inclusion, diversity, and encouraging ethical behavior aren’t exactly controversial (and are supported by most people).

Those responsible found that they didn’t have the influence they thought, as their tweets and blogs were not met with the support they had hoped to garner. Instead, they faced ridicule, mockery, and people twisting their hashtag into something amusing (or even beneficial).

This pushback was just the latest, as the RPG industry had long been handling a lot of controversy and nonsense. The biggest issue over the past year involved the attempted resurrection of a favorite RPG and the complete failure of its designers and writers.


Guilty of game (and career) necromancy

In 2015, White Wolf (which hadn’t really been an independent company since 2006) came back as a subsidiary of Paradox Interactive, with the goal of starting the 5th Edition of Vampire: the Masquerade. Although ended by the original company in 2004, the line was so popular it spawned a 20th-anniversary version in 2011 (by Onyx Path Publishing), and the reins were handed over to “new” leadership.

Unfortunately, by 2017, the controversy had already begun with an Alpha Playtest that included a pre-generated character that was essentially a pedophile. Further Beta releases of material only furthered the backlash, with the use of charged language (like “triggered”), false equivalencies (comparing neo-Nazis to social justice advocates), and similar passages that seemed to cater to the faux-centrist, Internet troll, and alt-right crowds.

White Wolf defended itself vehemently, denying association with any bigoted movements, ideologies, or groups; instead, contributors (like VtM founder, Mark Rein-Hagen) doubled-down that they were just being edgy and presenting Vampires as monsters. They even promised to make alterations and include new chapters encouraging responsible and inclusive gameplay; of course, it was too late for the books already on shelves, so everyone would have to wait for the PDFs, or later print runs.

1 (1).jpg

The kind of “warnings” they essentially included

Suffice to say, the “fixed” books didn’t really do the job, and the added material was often full of the same dog-whistles and snarl words. The authors left in much of the charged language (and made even worse mistakes), crossed lines the OWoD avoided (like blaming real-world atrocities on the supernatural), and even encouraged irresponsible, “edgelord” gameplay because “it’s just a game” and “no one will judge you.”

White Wolf once more promised to do better, but when another sneak peek came out where the author (Rein-Hagen, again) used the real-life Chechnyan gay genocide as a plot point and cover-up for Vampires, the RPG industry was done. The backlash was swift, and Paradox stated it was looking into addressing the issue and “restructuring” leadership of their subsidiary.

Recently, Paradox announced the future V5 products were on hold, the offensive material was thrown out, and the subsidiary would be rolled back into the parent company. White Wolf was dead once more, and the “edgelords” who’d created this travesty were (probably) jobless.


Someone botched their Intelligence+Finance (Business) roll

Honestly, the response to V5 was understandable, given most Vampire fans weren’t the right audience for such nonsense. The World of Darkness had its origins in the counterculture of the 1990’s, which (while not perfect) was relatively inclusive, open-minded, and progressive.

In contrast, the Old School Revival/Renaissance (OSR) has gotten a bad rap thanks to some of its proponents and writers, not to mention the behavior of their followers. Like GamerGate, this “gaming movement” has been associated with doxxers, harassers, bigots, and the worst types of gamer; unlike GG, you can divorce the tenets of OSR from those individuals and find a legitimate idea underneath it all.

The fact that the OSR boils down to a specific approach to playing RPGs doesn’t detract from those reprehensible people who associate themselves with, or champion, the concept. Too many OSR blogs or books included bigoted and hateful language and evidence of harassment by OSR “fans” existed.


Actual quote from an OSR forum

In response to this poor image of the movement, Stuart Robertson — OSR author and designer of the popular OSR logo — spoke out against these individuals.

Robertson’s full post on his page indicated that the logo is copywritten and licensed, and he had full rights to remove others’ use of it because of moral infringement. Further, he used Canada’s Hate Speech laws as an example of transgressions that would not be tolerated, including anyone using the logo in conjunction with racism, misogyny, anti-semitism, homophobia, or any other bigotry.

The support for Mr. Robertson has been outstanding, especially from the OSR community where many are tired of the hate and behavior from some peers or authors. By limiting their use of the logo, and making a flagrant stand against those beliefs, the industry can cleanse itself of a toxic corner and bring the OSR into a more positive light.


Logo (and ethics) courtesy of Stuart Robertson

Like our society and politics, the RPG community had us concerned with how divisive, ignorant, and extreme we’d become. From the controversies surrounding the OSR to the ignorance and “edgelordiness” found in the new White Wolf, the vocal minority of trolls, faux-centrists, and bigots seemed to be winning out.

Luckily, like other parts of pop culture and geekdom, the industry has taken a stand. We will tolerate these toxic individuals and their behavior no more than we will the worst Star Wars “fans” or video game players.

We still have a long way to go, as RPGs struggle with representation, behind-the-scenes and at the table, and they must battle hateful and ignorant rhetoric reinforced by the Internet. There’s plenty of optimism, however, seeing major companies or figures take a stand and help keep the RPG community on the right path.

For those making these decisions, thanks for rolling those nat 20’s and critical successes. Let’s keep our dice pools ready for the next threat.

About Brook H. (269 Articles)
Generalist, polymath, jack-of-all-trades... Brook has degrees in Human Behavior and Psychology and has majored in everything from computers to business. He's worked a variety of jobs, including theater, security, emergency communications, and human services. He currently resides outside Baltimore where he tries to balance children, local politics, hobbies, and work. Brook is HoH and a major Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing advocate, a lifelong gamer (from table-top to computer), loves everything paranormal, and is a Horror-movie buff.

18 Comments on Tabletop Tuesday – RPGs are Done with Edgelords and Bigots

  1. As a side effect, I think this gives us an opportunity to discuss when it is and is not appropriate to use deplorable or abhorrent behavior in our games.

    Granted, a lot of people prefer to avoid bigotry and hatred because gaming is a chance to escape from the troubles of the real world; but some of us like to bring in that hatred, if only in small doses, to make our games more real.

    That’s just me trying to turn the conversation into something useful. At the end of the day, if all we accomplish is scaring people away from the table, then we’ve done some horribly wrong.


  2. As a table top rpg layer for 35 years I can say that my table was and is, inclusive. The only “edgelords” or “bigots” are either those you invite to your table to play, manufacture in your mind or those rare few people that are actual jerks that will do what they want anyway. The OSR was founded on inclusivity (I helped for TARGA) and any claims of “finally it’s over” are offensive anyways best to those of us who have tried our best for this hobby all long.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. SJWs really don’t recognize the fundamentally decentralized nature of Tabletop.

    My “edgelord” players don’t care one squirt of rancid Orc piss if some pink haired loser from California doesn’t like how we play or if they have “problematic” opinions. None of us do.

    This isn’t video games or comic books, your opinions have literally 0 weight on anything.

    SJWs. Not at my table.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bblackmoor // November 20, 2018 at 1:36 pm //

    Well done to all of the people keeping RPGs free of the walking garbage fires and #fakegeekboys. And to the handful of cretins trying to spread your sad, lonely misery beyond your own piss-stained gaming table: good riddance.


  5. So the “progressives” are taking a victory lap over their commandeering of tabletop RPGs, huh? Good luck with that. The nature of these games are fundamentally decentralized, which means that any such occupation won’t be able to stamp out that which you don’t like.

    More systems than ever are being published under the Open Gaming License, allowing anyone to write and sell compatible materials.
    The explosion of licensing agreements that allow for legally publishing and selling materials that use certain games’ intellectual propery on OneBookShelf sites likewise allows anyone to get into the act (even if it allows OBS to decide what’s acceptable and what’s not).
    And even if none of those were still true, you can still pick and choose who you play with and what you play.

    The “edgelords” and “bigots” will still be here after you get bored and move on to whatever new space you feel like colonizing. Withdrawing logos? They’ll make new ones. Refusing to sell “problematic” content? They’ll write their own. Bitching about gatekeeping? That’s just talking about world lore, goober; if you don’t want to feel excluded, do some research and learn about the setting.

    SJWs don’t get it. They can lay into various extensions of the community all they want, like and OneBookShelf and the Adventurers League, but they can’t strike at the heart of it. There’s no license necessary to just play the game and write your own crap. There’s no way for them to stop homebrewing and free association. They can’t take the materials away, no matter how many fits they throw.

    This is a fight they can’t win.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a SJW (how it can be bad to try and make life better for everyone I don’t know), I’ve been playing since the early 80s. Don’t think I’m going away anytime soon….


    • Another grognard here: started in the hobby in 1980, and remember the “satanic panic”. Today, one of our gaming tables includes a christian evangelical who shares this wonderful hobby with his kids. The three groups I play in, run the gamut of races, ages, economic backgrounds, political beliefs and gender preferences. There is no political “winning” here any more than you can “win” an RPG. Just find a compatible gaming table and play nice with others. That’s all.


  6. bblackmoor // November 20, 2018 at 2:29 pm //

    Oh, terrible people will always exist. We know that. Anyone can choose to be a hateful wretch, if that’s what they really want to be. But they won’t be welcome at our conventions, and they won’t be welcome in our stores, and they won’t be welcome at our game tables. If someone wants to be despicable, then they will be despised. Sad but true. However, they can change that at any time, by choosing to be a decent human being.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve been playing RPG since the early 90s and played lots of different systems. None of my long-time groups were “bigots” or “racist”. We were always open for poc, women etc. And we were always aware that RPG talk is like bar talk. Lots of funny, embarassing, sad things comes out. We prefer to have fun instead of crying and whining about social justice.


  8. bblackmoor // November 20, 2018 at 5:47 pm //

    “I’m not racist, but…” says every racist ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Every racist denies being racist? Doesn’t every non-racist also deny it?

      I’m not sure why White Wolf is included in an article about bigotry, none of the examples from them cited are described as bigoted (instead they are guilty of using “snarl words”, “charged language”, and mocking fringe leftists). I couldn’t tell you what a “snarl” word is, but I assume it doesn’t mean ‘bigoted’. Otherwise the author would have just said that.

      It’s fine if there are jokes that you don’t find funny, but it seems over the top to demand a product be pulled or altered because of it.


  9. Jim Blanas // November 20, 2018 at 7:08 pm //

    I recall during the “Gamergate” stuff, I didn’t say anything on the matter for a long time. That’s because when a 5-year-old tells you “Girls are yucky,” you don’t engage them on it, and that’s the Gamergate argument at it’s core.

    It was when they targeted Felicia Day, someone about whom it can objectively be said hasn’t hurt anyone, that I felt compelled to write my open letter.

    “Dear Cocksuckers,” it began. And I’m afraid I just got insulting from there.


  10. So, why exactly is Gamergate associated with doxxing and bigots, if there’s no instances of these things being tolerated in any of GG’s spaces? Targeted harassment, doxing, and bigotry were banned on every Gamergate forum, chatroom, and discord server from the start.

    To correct the commenter above me, Gamergate did not “target” Felicia Day, at worst they talked about her and her characterization of the movement, on their own subreddit. They also got together to denounce any attempts by trolls to doxx or harass her.


  11. Sadly the way you portrait it is not how it went in the end with the OSR. Stuart got hounded out of G+ for standing up. The 5000 member strong OSR community immediately removed his logo and replaced it with a different one as they did not want or could not comply with his wishes. The DnDgaters celebrated a win. While Stuart got a lot of support he got even more backlash.

    Liked by 1 person

    • aaron.griffin // November 22, 2018 at 9:55 am //

      Yeah this is the truth of it. OSR communities quickly scrambled to remove his logo, and Stuart was banned from their spaces (I guess they needed a safe space). He has since deleted his account and wants nothing to do with the OSR.


  12. One thing that seems to get left out on most reports of the V5 issue is that the Chechnya governments disapproval on their entire section in the book. Including threatening to arrest the author of that section, urging a boycott of the book if not outright banning it and the charge that it is outright propaganda meant to harm the country. This is a much more valid reason for Paradox to make the final choice with White Wolf that they did. Having a country threatening legal action has a lot more weight to it than an online petition.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Robin Wemmenlöv // November 25, 2018 at 10:44 am //

    Sad to see politics and identitarians are worming their way into tabletop RPGs.


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