Thursday, April 28, 2016

Let Them Play Too

Alternate title: Little Plastic Fighting Men For Everybody

I have played miniature games since I was 13 and I discovered a few friends playing Warhammer Fantasy in middle school. It grew into a hobby of mine and I have played miniature games for 18 years. I own miniatures that are old enough to vote, I now work in miniatures and tabletop role playing games, and I play so many games I have a little storage block that sorts my minis. You could say it's an obsession for me, even more so than my obsession of my pal Aaron Dembski-Bowden.

Shut up. One day we'll get married and move to a farm and raise puppies together.

(Somewhere Aaron raises his head and just quietly says "No thanks, mate.")

This morning I was going through some Facebook posts by my colleagues and I discovered a growing movement inside the Warhammer 40k fandom that was trying to get more women in the game so that they could feel included. And the thing that surprised me about this was not the fact that women want to play the same games as guys, but the fact that there was a huge push back against the very notion of their being women in the game.

There were the minor complaints, of course. "It would be too expensive to make female heads! Boob plate armor doesn't make sense! (I agree.) Do women even play the game?"

And then there were those guys. You know who. Those Fucking Guys. The ones who are shitting on the idea because they think it's bullshit to change the game even a little bit to make it more inclusive.

The three biggest complaints I've heard so far about trying to incorporate more women into the setting:

1. It would be a major rewrite to the fluff! What is written is Canon, and we cannot defy Canon.

I think a lot of these guys are forgetting that the Canon took an almighty punch to the face when the first of the Horus Heresy books was released and suddenly we could see the Primarchs and know their thoughts and feelings. The very nature of the war was changed and rewritten for us to enjoy. We saw things change over a 10 year period, and as holes in the story were filled in other parts of the fluff was changed accordingly.

It's also not a massive change. It's not like adding women to the ranks of the Space Marines invalidates the major stories of this universe. The treachery at Istvaan isn't made worse because women were fighting among the ranks of the Loyalists. The Warmaster still falls, and his fall brings about a new age of Chaos in the universe. Generic Shooty Army still fights Generic Shooty Army even if some members on the battlefield are women and not men.

Here is my solution for how to include them in the story of the 40k universe.

Story as it stands:

A. General Bloodypulp wins the Battle of Booyah.
B. Arch lord Demonicus Rex steals the Eye of Rulings.
C. The forces of the Space Elf Giddywiddyion invade Barnax Acultha.

Story as it changes:

A. General Bloodypulp wins the Battle of Booyah.
B. Arch lord Demonicus Rex steals the Eye of Rulings.
C. The forces of the Space Elf Giddywiddyion invade Barnas Acultha.

Did you miss that?

Nothing changed! It stayed the same! Maybe as the battles are written about in a setting book someone includes the character Agatha Dreadsword, captain of the Furies, or maybe Captain Varro has a heart to heart discussion with his battle sister Brunhilda before deciding if he should board the Eisenstein.

Maybe the hero of one book is Captain Arcades, who hails from the Segmentum Ultimate, and she is caught behind enemy lines while one of her tactical squad is secretly a traitor put in place by the Alpha Legion.


Just....OK. Dude. Over here. C'mon, I'm not going to hurt you. Just come over here. Here is some honest, 100% not politically correct talk going your way.

I remember when a girl walking into a game store was a rare thing, and I remember all the horny teenage boys becoming slack jawed and going "Guuuuuuuuuuuuuurls." I remember when a girl showing interest in tabletop games was a golden fantasy to us unlucky bastards who were partner less.

Do you want us to regress to that era?

And women are not objects! In fact, I have been informed by many people that women are in fact, people just like us! That they have thoughts, desires, and sometimes a willingness to take a motherfucking las cannon to fucking piece of shit Van Saar in Necromunda. That sometimes, SOMETIMES, they want to have fun too. And I'm going to come back to that point in a little bit.

What some people see as political correctness is actually the result of us no longer bullying and dehumanizing women to the point that they don't feel like they deserve to have fun with us guys. Now they're standing up for themselves, and guys are terrified that the hobby they have loved for so long will somehow die because of it. But as someone who works with miniatures for a living, let me tell you that the only way the hobby will die out is if it becomes so exclusionary and discriminatory that there are no younger generations to pick it up. Look at the classic war games where they've been reduced to a couple old men sitting around with dusty game manuals and wondering why people don't play their game with them anymore.

3. Women just can't game!

This is the one that actually blows my mind the most because it suggests that some people's mind sets are that women are all "Sparkles and Glitter and Makeup and Boys Tee Hee!"

(Did that preceding sentence sound dumb? IT WAS DUMB WASN'T IT!)

One of my gaming groups has a player whose character, Agent Joykill, once tore apart a tank with her bare hands and saved my characters life after my disastrous run on it failed miserably. I play a different game with a player who cannot stand the idea of devouring an animal hole but in combat she'll motherfucking rip out the throats of anyone who threatens her friends. I once got schooled really hard in a Warmachine tournament when a Retribution of Scyrah player did a weird and complicated hopscotch maneuver and eliminated my Warlock in the second turn. And this is just gaming! As someone who hails from a family of women who have earned their PHDs and multiple degrees in complicated fields, I can tell you three things:

A. Some women do like sparkles, glitter, and make up. And that's OK!
B. There's some women who don't, and prefer grit, dirt, and the blood of their enemies. And that's OK!
C. There's some women who do both. And sing it with me now....THAT'S OK!

See that picture I put at the top of the post? That's from my friend James T Wulfgar and his friends who went to a convention dressed as Space Wolves. That is his wife and one of their friends rocking the completely amazing cosplay as soldiers of Fenris. Not only do they look like they could kick a Thousand Son in his arcanic giblets, but they look like they are having fun!

And that's what this is about. We were all kids once. We all saw cool things going on and wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to do the cool things I saw other kids doing, and younger kids want to do the same thing. Why? Because it looks awesome and is fun! And we play games because they're awesome and fun!

So why is it that as a hobby there is such an enormous push back against women? Especially since what they're asking for is such a little thing.They want to have fun with us, and that's not a huge thing to ask. And part of having fun with us is feeling like they can be included in the game along with guys. They don't want to destroy the game, because then they couldn't play it either. They want to feel like they matter, and that in a universe of Big Damn Heroes they can be Big Damn Heroes too.

There is a big opportunity here to see our hobby grow, and when the hobby grows, it gets more awesome. Let's grow the damn brand, guys. Let's find more players to play with. Let's roll the dice, and have a good time.

Unless little toy soldiers mean more to you than being a decent person. And making sure that your wife, your girlfriend, your sister, mother, daughter, niece, aunt, or even just stranger on the street who could turn into a pretty damn awesome friend to you are welcome at the table? That's not a huge thing to ask. That's asking so very little from you that if you do it, it doesn't seem like very much effort at all.

P.S. People who say "Girls have Sisters of Battle, so they should be grateful" are literally saying "We shit out some figures for you once and never touched them for 5 editions and made them ultra expensive to buy." I like the SoB's too, but that's like saying "I once said MLK JR. Was pretty cool once! RACISM SOLVED FOREVER!"

Monday, April 11, 2016

Pulsars: More than a Superhero Boss Fight

Hello, Corpsman! We've got some amazing things to share regarding the Pulsars universe but I wanted to encourage any of you that have questions to leave them at the Smug Pug Games Facebook page or to leave them hear. I'll then take the questions and answer them each Monday as we continue our development on Pulsars. I'm going to go ahead and take the few I've gotten so far and answer them here, but I thought I'd like to tell you how the progress is going after the cruel Battle of the Lost Data.

1. Our artwork is in the 1st draft phase, and I will post pictures of them once they are finished. We are using Gunship Revolution as well as artwork from Christopher Dunn for Pulsars, and the artwork we've received so far has been amazing! You guys are in for a treat.

2. We lost a few documents from our Cloud data storage last month, but we have backups on our computers as well as other places. We may have lost about 30% of what we had, which included mainly Blog write ups, information on the Corps, and information on the world. We still have the rules, the system write ups, the character sheets, and setting material. All of the lost information can be easily replaced, it's just some of the backups were not the most up to date files. BUT EVERYTHING IS OK! Never fear, Pulsars is coming!

3. Yes, we are planning on running another Kickstarter in the Fall. We are waiting because after receiving the feedback from the last one I want to put every ounce of effort into not only improving the Kickstarter but improving the game and fixing the faults we had before. We also plan on having a special surprise at Gen Con 2016 for our fans, including a first look at the game.

Now, on to the biggest question I have received from other people. That is...

"So what is the appeal of this game? It seems like you're creating a game that's just guys in Iron Man suits going at it."

While Iron Man was a big inspiration on me growing up (I started reading during the War Machine era) the game is much more than people fighting each other in super suits. While the armor is at the center of the setting, Pulsars aims to show that there is so much more than becoming Mega Man and blasting robots. The Suit amplifies what you are good at and makes you even better at it.

Pulsars is set in a massive galaxy full of mystery. Not every problem is solved in Pulsars by aiming a weapon at it and shooting it. The Free Zones are full of billions of refugees who need food, shelter, and clean water. Preacher Cults, the fanatical bands of followers of the Enemy who seek to undermine and destabilize the region, need to be uncovered and their plans stopped. Feuding Free Zones need mediators who can reach a compromise between starving groups who are often only reason resorting to conflict because they have lost any hope. There are also countless relics, lost Suits, and mysterious phenomenon that need Pulsars to investigate them to find if they are helpful in resisting the Enemy or could be a threat.

And one of the primary motivators of the setting, beyond the Suits themselves, is perhaps its most personal: that of dealing with loss.

As I've said before, being a Pulsar is more than just wearing a shell of armor around yourself. You are fighting for not only your life but the freedom of the all sentient species across the galaxy. Even on the most insulated worlds that are the farthest from the Front, people have been affected by the Long War. Countless lives have been lost, great civilizations have been destroyed, and the Enemy keeps advancing. It echoes in a very real way the struggles that we all go through in our daily lives.

Just like in life, the Game focuses on what we can and cannot control. In a way, wearing a Suit does not prepare the wearer for dealing with loss. Being given the power to take on a battleship in combat and win may bring a temporary victory, but as the Long War goes on, even the strongest Pulsars find themselves drained and dealing with loss. The game gives a look at how despite how godlike someone may seem, they too are going through life as best they can with whatever means they can.

The game has more to it than just combat and loss, though. It also offers the chance to explore a world that is every bit as fantastic and horrifying as it seems. The battlefield stretches across space, and the remains of fallen empires and new worlds to explore offer new opportunities. Pulsars must take their skills to alien worlds and each day offers something new. One day they may be stopping Kelliostro's pirate raiders from stealing food shipments and the next they may have uncovered a strange monolith on a forgotten world that constantly swirls with color and sings music that soothes the soul.

In addition to combat, here are some examples of what a player may build their Suit to do.

Anita Cole, our chief protagonist, wears a Guardian suit which enhances her skills as a warrior. With her C-Beam emitters and pulse jets, she's a formidable opponent. Her Suit also allows her to read her squad and keep track of them, and she possesses enhanced sensors that allow her to know if they have been hurt, need assistance, or find them if they become lost.

Laura Hightower, our Navigator Corpsmen, is able to activate her own Stardives in space. She spends most of her time flying around the galaxy and performing recon. But her Suit has sensors that let her explore planets that she flies by, because this is her one true love. Her Suit was created to help the Pulsars fight the Enemy but to her, it's freedom. She gets to explore the massive frontier and see sights no one else can see. She has looked at stars while being so close that anyone else would have been incinerated.

Caesar's Suit, or rather his Rig, is a giant hulk of servos and tools that can be used to repair damaged buildings or quickly replace missing parts. For Caesar, he works himself ragged to repair the damage he sees around him. Part of his Strain is the sadness that he may never be able to fix everything, but he wants too. As such he rarely gets to leave his Suit, but while he is in it he will help anyone who needs his help. Though he follows his orders to the letter he will take time out of his mission to fix damaged wells, solar panels, and buildings if it means bringing people the slightest bit of comfort.

Morpho, a member of the Investigative Corp, uses her Suit to gather a constant stream of information around her. Though she is paralyzed from the waist down, she is able to move as capably as anyone else. Her Suit's sensors gather information about the environment around her and filters it into her display, allowing her to scan for clues and analyze the mysterious relics left across the galaxy.