The Necessity of Kindness

The Necessity of KindnessThe Necessity of Kindness: This was originally scheduled to be a Weird Horror-themed issue. That volume is still coming, and is about 75% complete. The only major portion left to write is the opinion/editorial piece. It was going to be on the importance of H.P. Lovecraft to the history of tabletop roleplaying, balanced against his well-documented bigotry. I was beaten to the punch by Evil Hat Productions, who have a “comfort and consent” section in their freshly-released Fate of Cthulhu that covers the same ground.

Not wanting to look like a copycat, especially since I’ve already acknowledge the influence of Fate Accelerated within the Hippogryph mechanics, I needed to change direction. Normally this would simply require a rewrite approaching the subject from a fresh angle, or finding a new subject altogether. It should have been fairly simple.

Then I started seeing the reactions to Fate of Cthulhu.

People were defending Lovecraft’s racism and antisemitism, attempting to somehow provide rationalizations and justifications for his views. They attacked Evil Hat for inserting “politics” into a rulebook, and called them hypocrites for calling Lovecraft out while simultaneously making a profit from his legacy. It was hateful, and ugly, and it made me angry.

Here’s my stance: I judge people based on whether or not they are kind. What matters to me is how you treat other people, and the way that you advocate for the treatment of other people. This is a basic moral and ethical stance that’s not in any way political or religious at its core. It’s just fundamental human decency. I don’t care about your views and opinions, the philosophical grounding for your kindness or lack thereof, only about your words and actions.

Tabletop roleplaying is about people. That’s the one constant in this hobby. Regardless of the genre, the system, or the setting you’re using, it comes down to people. You can prefer the wargaming elements over storytelling or vice-versa, but it remains the same. We might be sitting around a table, spread out on couches or the floor, or chatting over the internet, but the one requirement of every game is human beings.

The Necessity of Kindness

Kindness — treating other people with dignity and respect, acting with compassion and empathy, caring about peoples’ safety and concerns — ought to be the default position within this hobby. Why this is in any way controversial, let alone perceived to be political, confounds me. You cannot have any game, let alone a good game, when people are made to feel unwelcome, marginalized, or endangered.

There was no way that I could write an op/ed piece for that planned issue without turning it into a complete shoot. I didn’t want to undermine the points I wanted to make, however, by writing from a place of anger. Anything I said on the subject needed to come from a place of love. That’s when I remembered that it’s February.

In the United States and other places around the world, February 14th is Valentine’s Day. It’s a celebration of romantic love. Here in Finland it’s Ystävänpäivä, Friend’s Day. Everyone is included. You can send card, flowers, and chocolates to your best friend, a neighbor, a coworker, and yes, your significant other, sweetheart, or spouse as well.

This issue is now the exact opposite of what was scheduled. After some brainstorming and a few late nights engaged in writing and editing, this is the Love and Friendship issue. Rather than rant about the things that I despise, I’ve chosen to focus on what I would most like to promote.

Hippogryph Going Forward

My original idea was to have each issue of Hippogryph follow a formula. There will be one article each on characters, worldbuilding, adventures, and rules. The needs of each issue will dictate the length and interpretation of those categories.

At the start of each issue, though, I always planned to have these op/ed pieces. Between the current Fate of Cthulhu nonsense, some of the reactions to my “Toxic Fandom” piece in Issue One, and the ongoing wasteland that is social media, I’ve come to realize that the true fifth category is people. It’s up front, at the start of each issue, for a reason. I’m not going to stop. It’s necessary.

This op/ed is from Hippogryph Issue Three. Get your copy now from DriveThruRPG.

4 replies on “The Necessity of Kindness”

If we really want to tug on that thread, the zine isn’t necessary and neither are games. They’re entertainment. Distraction. I could make the case that the op/ed pieces are probably more necessary to maintaining and improving the human condition than more material for elfgames. But that would probably come across as the wrong kind of pretentious.

There’s the kind of pretentious where everyone thinks you’re an ass. That’s a wrong kind of pretentious.

There’s the kind of pretentious where most people think you’re an ass but enough people buy into the rhetoric, think you’re as deep and profound as you’re trying to come across and throw lots and lots of money at you. c.f. Gwyneth Paltrow and goop, and some of the people on your Twitter feed. I’d argue that, while profitable, it’s still the wrong kind of pretentious because it lacks the efficacy to back up the audacity.

Then there’s the kind of pretentious where you acknowledge your own gifts, aren’t afraid of showing them off, and are proud of what your accomplishments and capabilities. This is just self-awareness and self-confidence. A lot of people refuse to acknowledge the talent or feel that people who are bold enough to assert their own worth need to be taken down a peg. It doesn’t help that a lot of arrogant asses have Dunning-Krugered themselves into thinking they fall into this category (c.f. Paltrow and your Twitter feed).

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