First, a public apology. A few years ago, Andy Kitkowski, publisher of Tenra Bansho Zero and co-publisher of MAID RPG, sent us a review copy of MAID and was very flattering in a note he attached to it. We’ve felt for a while that we let him down by not getting a review up. Not to put Allan on the spot, but Allan looked MAID over and couldn’t figure out how to approach it. [My players were just plain confused by it, honestly, and wouldn’t try it. – A] I have a feeling that a lot of you reading this are right there with him. We asked all our other reviewers if they wanted to take it on, and they all recoiled.
Now, I know the deal with MAID, because I happen to know this particular deal with anime culture and Japanese pop culture in general. Said deal is that a lot of stuff from Japan looks to us like it’s being presented sincerely, and is thus creepy and crazy, when it’s understood in Japan as being satirical. The original MAID game falls into that category, as does most of the maid-themed anime that inspired it. You can certainly still argue that attempted satire of sexist tropes just spreads sexism, particularly when the culture as a whole – ours in this case – doesn’t get the joke. I myself feel more or less this way, in fact, but the comparatively low-titillation presentation style of MAID does a lot to redeem it for me.
The failure of cultural translation was utterly predictable with MAID – enough so that its publication, the first of an original Japanese RPG into English to make it to print, was neither a great business move nor a good strategy for opening American minds to Japanese RPGs. That said, if you’re one of the many American nerds who understand anime tropes deeply, a game with MAID‘s themes can be hilarious, and MAID delivers. The execution is dead on. The players play the many stereotypical French-style maids of an aloof male master – you could run it as My Life With Master, only funny (comedy and horror are close cousins). The game runs beautifully and is a pretty amazing source of random tables (tragedy tables! Mental complexes! The mind-shreddingly massive Costume Table 2!).
But there’s no saving MAID in the Western market. You could possibly reskin the system and sell the conversion, but that’s not the same. And you could run and sell it at anime cons, but not outside anime culture. (I am not suggesting that any of this is news to Andy.)
A while ago, an RPG we’ve honored in the past did a sort of splashy relaunch; I mean, it debuted in an Asian-culture-themed round of Allen Varney’s indefatigable Bundle of Holding, right around Christmas, which is not bad. It’s called Tokyo Brain Pop, and it’s about Japanese schoolgirls amongst whom one or more has horrifying psychic powers. Its mechanics focus on social dynamics amongst teens and fighting evil demons in equal measure. It’s pretty great.
And if it sounds familiar, it should: it’s Panty Explosion, which OgreCave has honored in our Christmas gift guides in the past. It was renamed in response to long-building public resistance to the name, including its publisher getting blocked at one point from tabling at GeekGirlCon. Now, to my ear, the title Panty Explosion was always pretty transparently an ironic shot across the bow of anime tropes as they play in the US. But there was no saving it in the Western market either. Too many people, for reasons either respectable or reflexive, are just gonna do this.
Let’s talk about “branding,” and what it really means.
At Gen Con 2016, the winner of this year’s Diana Jones Award for excellence in gaming has been announced as prolific and impressive game designer Eric M. Lang. Lang is known as the man behind Chaos in the Old World, the Living Card Game versions of A Game of Thrones and Star Wars, and more recently for the elegant Ragnarok-themed board game Blood Rage. Other nominees this year were ConTessa, an organization; Fall of Magic, a story-game by Ross Cowman, published by Heart of the Deernicorn; Larpwriter Summer School; and Pandemic Legacy published by Z-man Games. OgreCave congratulates all the nominees, and Eric Lang for his award this year.
Diana Jones Award press release follows:
THE WINNER OF THE 2016 DIANA JONES AWARD IS ERIC M. LANG
To say that Eric Lang is a prolific game designer is the punchline of a joke hilarious in its understatement. This year’s Gen Con, for example, sees the release of no fewer than four new Lang designs or co-designs: Bloodborne: The Card Game, The Others: 7 Sins, Arcane Academy (with Kevin Wilson), and HMS Dolores (with Bruno Faidutti).
A small sampling of Lang’s past designs include Blood Rage, Dice Masters (with Mike Elliott), 2010 Diana Jones nominee Chaos in the Old World, and Living Card Game designs for A Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and Warhammer 40,000.
And these games are not sausage, vomited from an assembly line and rushed to market carelessly undercooked. Rather, Lang’s games are perennial inhabitants of lists that laud both evergreen sales and – in the parlance of BoardGameGeek – “Hotness.”
The variety and quality of Lang’s co-designers speak to the joy of collaborating with him. It’s telling that those who’ve worked with him in the past would not hesitate to do so again, whatever the project. The top-shelf media properties that Lang has adapted for the tabletop demonstrate the trust that publishers put in Lang’s insight, skill, and ability to deliver.
Lang’s ludography is worthy of celebration on its own, but Eric’s sincere love for games, gamers, the gaming hobby, and the art of game design are exemplars not only for his immediate peers, but for those who strive in literally any field of endeavor. If you ran marathons, or raised children, or played heavy metal music with the same spirit that Eric brings to game design, you would exemplify the best spirit of those callings, and the world would be better for it.
It is the opinion of the Diana Jones Award Committee that Eric Lang exemplifies excellence in gaming. We are proud to award him our trophy for this year.
Today, a friend of the Cave, Aaron Teixeira, offers up his thoughts on the ongoing Dungeons & Dragons discussion: can the original roleplaying game be used as an inspired, artful storytelling device? Or is it merely a game of “killing things and taking their stuff”? Aaron’s been playing and running RPGs of all sorts for decades, and has decided to weigh in on the debate, in Dungeons & Dragons as Story. See what Aaron had to say, and add your thoughts to the conversation in the comments below.
Because we got some great footage at KublaCon 2015, we’re doing our best to ambush you with some of it (Flashback Friday, anyone?). We’ve included a general look at parts of the convention, but also managed to talk with Joseph Goodman of Goodman Games, as well as James Ernest of Cheapass Games. Some of what we discussed has hit game stores by now, but Joe and James both reveal some plans for the future. In particular, Joe describes new features of Dungeon Crawl Classics and his plans for Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar setting, while James tells us about the Kill Doctor Lucky Kickstarter campaign (which just started and runs until November 13th – check it out).
We’ll have more vids posted soon, so if you have the chance, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and stay tuned!
Around the Cave these past few months, Real Life (TM) has been busy, so gaming has suffered. But even hibernating ogres need to stretch, wake up, and hunt for good gaming now and then. To facilitate a good hunt for everyone, we have a new(ish) video from CelestiCon (going on this weekend in Fremont, CA. Okay, yeah, this is from the 2014 show – we’re way behind on posting this). Get a glimpse of this great convention for game enthusiasts of all varieties, listen to Luke Laurie from the League of Gamemakers talk of the League’s mission and CelestiSpiel, a haven for game developers to test game prototypes, and come out to the show this weekend if you can.
Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, or listen to our large library of audio podcasts. There’s more hibernating goodies dislodging every time the Cave Dwellers manage to wrestle them into submission.
We’ve got a lot to say in the latest OgreCave Audio Report episode. First, we talk of DunDraCon 2015, wherein Allan describes some of the things he saw at the show. Then we hit Kickstarter hard, describing a variety of projects, both completed and upcoming, while voicing thoughts on what the crowdsourcing site should really be used for. Finally, one particular volunteer at PAX East is making the entire organization look bad, so they’d really better get a handle on the situation ASAP – and not by simply ignoring it.
Click here for show details and to listen to the new episode. Watch here soon for DunDraCon 2015 pictures, and everything else we’re up to as well.
In our first show of the new year, we’re already covering a lot of ground. In just the first half of the podcast, we go from Allan’s first impressions of Dungeons & Dragons: Fifth Edition to Mike’s obsession with space games, and back around to enjoying Magic: The Gathering after many years of abstinence. Then we drag out a pair of surprise gaming artifacts, speak of upcoming conventions, and more.
For the Cave dwellers, the start of convention season is heralded by DunDraCon. Now that the annual gaming event and its impending awesomeness are nearly here, this seems like the time to premiere our DunDraCon promo video. Take it away, Sparky! (Be sure to subscribe on YouTube to see all of OgreCave’s video goodness.)
We’re back, and ready to talk all things gaming. To wrap up the year and prepare for new things, we have a brand new episode of our long-dormant (hibernating?) podcast show, the OgreCave Audio Report. Now redubbed 2.0, the relaunch episode has Mike and Allan talking of the holidays, Kickstarter goodies, interpersonal issues in game groups, and GamerGate, among other things.
A more complete write-up will follow, but for now, enjoy the new episode, and happy holidays!
If you haven’t already heard our other podcast show, OgreCave’s Gaming News Update, click through and have a listen – we’ve cornered quite a few game industry luminaries over the years.
With the holiday season already upon us, roleplaying gamers are looking for quality RPGs to pick up, and some of us are planning ahead. In this Gaming News Update interview with James Wallis, notably of Spaaace: the Games Consultancy and the man behind the trailblazing company Hogshead Publishing, what was old is becoming new again via the Paranoia Reboot Kickstarter campaign. With less than a week left to accept pledges, James tells about his plans for the new Paranoia boxed set. He also talks about dark humor in roleplaying, why death in gaming isn’t nearly the handicap it used to be, and offers some excellent news for gamers who pledged to either his Alas, Vegas campaign or Gareth Michael Skarka’s Far West RPG campaign. Thanks to Friend Skype, James tells us all about Friend Computer, Alpha Complex, mutants, terrorists, and more – probably more than your clearance level will allow, so trust no one – in our latest podcast episode.
In our final KublaCon 2014 video, we manage to grab a few minutes with Japji Khalsa, Executive Producer and founder of KublaCon. In this video, we learn about the CCG-derived origins of the convention, how game designers use the show for their own nefarious ends, and some of the latest improvements to the overall KublaCon experience. You’ll get a small tour of Hyatt amenities, a few words from this year’s exhibitors about the convention, and glimpses of other KublaCon activities, between segments. In all, if you haven’t figured out KublaCon is “The Khan of Cons” yet, you simply haven’t been paying attention!
Have a look at all six KublaCon videos, and be sure to subscribe on YouTube to get all our upcoming video coverage. We’ll have some new things soon. No, really.
A fun, gentle game to ease young players into the roleplaying hobby can be useful from time to time. While luring in new, young gamers is not a unique goal, each attempt to create a kid-friendly introduction to RPGs serves to inform those that follow, helping to build better game systems. Merwin has read through the new introductory roleplaying game Little Wizards from Crafty Games, a revised and reworked (English) edition of a French game. The game puts young roleplayers in a world of young spell casters that ride brooms through the air, but also a world without violence. Does it seem feasible? What did Merwin think of it? Read today’s new review to find out.
The KublaCon 2014 coverage is continuing on OgreCave’s new YouTube channel with three more interviews. This time we sit down with Jason Topolski of Ameritrash Games to hear about Camp Grizzly, the ’70s horror movie board game. Then we speak with referee Brian Denmark about the Star Wars: X-Wing tournament he’s running to see what’s involved in running a competitive convention event. We eventually find Vern Roberts, a member of KublaCon’s staff, preparing to oversee the carnage of the Megadungeon crawl, a massive player-versus-player Pathfinder tournament which uses over $10,000 of Dwarven Forge MasterMaze miniature scenery. You’ll catch glimpses of other KublaCon activities between these interviews.
Have a look, and be sure to subscribe on YouTube to get all our upcoming video coverage, including some new things we’re working on.
Sometimes the whole roleplaying group just can’t meet up, but you still need some roleplaying time. Many games have tried to capture the essence of RPGs in another format, with varying degrees of success. Due to a lack of other roleplaying activity, Demian has been playing the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game from Paizo Publishing, Mike Selinker’s game design that translates the Pathfinder RPG into card game form. The Pathfinder card game has become popular enough to prompt plans for an Organized Play program starting next month. But what did Demian think of it? Read today’s new review to find out.
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