Roleplay Will Eat Itself

The title of this article is intended to be a tongue-in-cheek reference, based around the name of the band Pop Will Eat Itself, I am not seriously suggesting that recent scandals are going to destroy roleplaying or anything needlessly dramatic like that. However, it has been pointed out to me that the humour may not have translated well in text so I thought I’d state it here explicitly. Thanks to Adam Ness for pointing this out.

I’ve just been reading a post on Tenkar’s Tavern (great site, as I’m sure you all know), and it seems that the RP community (and the old school community in particular) continues in it’s almost frantic attempts to tear itself apart in flurries of accusations, recriminations and censorship. I don’t normally comment on such things–since I prefer to put my efforts into producing stuff and running games–but there has been so much of this sort of stuff flying around recently that I felt compelled to write this post. This is most likely going to be my one and only comment on this.

Disclaimer: This post is not meant as an attack on individuals or anything like that, more a comment on the generally toxic atmosphere of numerous RP communities recently.

I don’t have a problem with any particular individuals or communities, if you’re doing what you’re doing and no-one’s getting hurt, crack on, it neither affects nor bothers me. With regards to accusations made against different individuals, I’ll let you in on a secret:

What I think about the individuals involved and whether I believe them or not, does not and should not matter?

Why not? You might ask, well for the same reason that we’ve gradually phased out lynch mobs and such things in the offline world and have developed legal systems and trials to take their places, when emotions run high they influence opinions, legal trials allow cooler heads to prevail and also require proof to back up any allegations of impropriety or illegal activities.

However, recently it does seem that all one needs to get people banned from conventions, their contributions erased from RP history and shunned by the masses are a few well placed internet posts and enough people backing your corner.

Disclaimer number 2: Someone’s bound to miss this so I’m explicitly stating it here again, this post is not a criticism of individuals nor a denial of any actions that may or may not have occurred. I’m only qualified to discuss activities that I have personally witnessed, anything else on my part would be pure speculation at best.

One of the benefits of the legal system is that it allows neutral parties and a jury of peers to judge whether a claim of impropriety or illegal activity has merit and metes out the relevant punishment, should someone be found guilty. I’ve acted as a jury foreman before and I can tell you that–even when evidence is overwhelming–a jury does not treat their decision lightly, often debating even the clearest-cut seeming case for hours, if not days.

Given this, how much debate goes into a person firing off a post on the internet?

In my opinion, whether I like/dislike people involved, whether I believe them or not, how popular a person is and how much support one or more sides have should not be enough to get someone banned from communities and cons, their work censored and them generally shunned/edited out of the popular consciousness. If criminal activity has been undertaken, use the legal system in whatever place you live to bring a case, provide your proof and allow our–admittedly not perfect–justice systems to do their work.

They may not be perfect, but I fair prefer them to a lynch mob.

Illustration is Behemoth, a wood engraving by Jarrault, A:

There was of course at least one rambling and insulting response to this post, but that aside I also got this thought-provoking and well-reasoned response from Sam Long:

“Content consumers organizing to let content creators know their disdain is how the free market regulates itself. Boycotting is a time honored tradition of capitalism. Just because someone hasn’t been proven in a court of law to have committed a crime doesn’t mean they are entitled to patronage. Sometimes I just don’t want to pay someone I don’t like. “

– Sam Long in the OSR RPG Facebook Group

Sam is absolutely correct of course, we do live in a capitalist society and the individual is free to make decisions about who they wish to financially support with their money. I whole-heartedly support this and would hope that individuals are free to make these decisions themselves without that being taken away from them by a group or groups making this decision for them.

9 thoughts on “Roleplay Will Eat Itself”

  1. The outrage machine, in general, has gotten out of hand. I’d like to say it’s unique to the Internet, but I remember news media slobbering all over themselves to jump on bandwagons to slap on warning labels on music in the 90’s because some mom-groups were all in a tizzy. The Internet has only amplified our echoes chambers.

    Personally, I find it all to be annoying white noise.

    1. Yep, I’ve already had to block a person on FB because they seemed incapable of a rational discussion and have just had to delete a comment from someone whose vocabulary seemed to not extend far beyond the word “sh*t”.

      1. Hype against D&D got so bad that your parents could “commit” you to the Center for the Treatment of Ritualistic Deviance, a faith-community inspired psychiatric ward at the Hartgrove Hospital in Chicago. Their main concern was “teen Satanists”. But then someone remembered there is freedom of religion…

    2. Tipper Gore, yes Al Gore’s then-wife, now separated, set up the Parent’s Music Resource Committee. They were witch-hunting music they didn’t like. And Gore was even influenced to bad-mouth Dungeons & Dragons momentarily!
      She must have reformed when her husband realized lots of Democrats like rock music and he told Tipper to stifle it. And she went on to play drums with the Grateful Dead once. You can’t make up this stuff!

  2. The biggest surprise here is that anyone thinks Tenkar’s Tavern is a great site!
    Nearly a decade in and Erik still hasn’t created anything other than drama.
    His biggest contribution to G+ was making communities unusable with his incessant tavern spam. Just ignore the guy.

  3. Lol except there is no internet court and no offline court tries sexual harassment fairly so this is a principle that is exactly practically equivalent to “there should be no consequences for sexual assault”

    1. You are correct there is no internet court, in the same way there is no street court, nor should there be. Mob rules is not justice, it’s a mob, however justified the original motives might be.

      As for courts not trying sexual harrassment fairly, I have to confess that I have no direct experience of the court system in this regard. However if the courts cannot resolve crimes that is a much deeper problem that requires addressing by far greater minds than mine. Turning to mob rule is not a viable alternative.

      You also seem to have misunderstood what practically and exactly mean; if something is “exactly” something then it cannot also be “practically” something. As to there being no consequences for sexual assault, it’s odd you should say that given that courts do try and sentence people for that very thing.

  4. I was thinking about the old D&D animated and the obnoxious character Eric the Cavalier, and found this character was mandated by parents groups and consultants. Mark Evanier wrote that this consultants wanted to push the then-dominant pro-social moral for cartoons of “The group is always right; the complainer is always wrong”. You can read the whole story here: but let me share this part with you:

    “We were forced to insert this “lesson” in D & D, which is why Eric was always saying, “I don’t want to do that” and paying for his social recalcitrance. I thought it was forced and repetitive, but I especially objected to the lesson. I don’t believe you should always go along with the group. What about thinking for yourself? What about developing your own personality and viewpoint? What about doing things because you decide they’re the right thing to do, not because the majority ruled and you got outvoted?

    We weren’t allowed to teach any of that. We had to teach kids to join gangs. And then to do whatever the rest of the gang wanted to do.

    What a stupid thing to teach children.”

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