We Need a New Community

This is going to turn into a series of posts. Right now I have a lot of questions, some of which are only half-formed. I’m not to the point where I can even begin to suggest answers. I have a lot of thoughts, but no through line. The way these things all connect aren’t clear to me. I do know that we, roleplayers, need a new community.

Ripped from the Headlines

If you follow any facet of the RPG community, you know what’s blown up in the past 24 hours. I don’t want to name any names, and make the conversation about him. What I want to focus on is that for years people have been coming forward about his behavior. And for years companies have continued to not only hire him, but make excuses for him. For years conventions have continued to book him as a guest. He has not been banned from forums, but people who criticize him have been warned off from doing so. Everyone wants the audience he brings and the money he can make for them. It’s the same pattern we’ve seen in the larger entertainment industry over the past couple of years.

While the individual is accountable for his actions, there is a larger problem. I don’t even want to scratch the surface of other controversies and scandals. The community and culture that allowed him to thrive for so long is toxic. We need not to fix the community, but to build a new one from the ground up.

The Facets of the Community

I haven’t been an active participant in the community for a decade. It’s not clear to me where I fit. There’s not clear spot where Dancing Lights Press, as a company, fits. We have the D&D players, who make up about 75% of the hobby. Most of them are only interested in D&D. There are other brand-based communities based on specific games as well — Savage Worlds, Fate, Power by the Apocalypse, and so on. Those folks are mainly interested in their favorite game.

Then there are the collectors. They like big, shiny books. These are the folks that make Kickstarter campaigns successful and keep your friendly local gaming shop open. I thank these people for keeping the hobby alive and thriving. They’re not my community. They don’t buy PDFs, as a general rule. I don’t produce stunningly beautiful coffee table books crammed with art. That’s not our aesthetic at Dancing Lights Press. I’m also a minimalist, so I don’t personally have a massive collection of games and books any more. I don’t fit with that group.

Indie gamers seem like a better fit for me. They have the same love of story and character that I do. We have a lot of interests in common, and share similar game design goals and aspirations. Where we split off is that I’m a business person as well as a game designer. I openly admit to having a profit motive. This is my job, and as of this writing I have pain my bills for 32 months straight on nothing but what I make running Dancing Lights Press. I do not create things solely for the joy of creating things. I cannot make things and give them away for free. That, in the eyes of some, makes me a heretic. Not my community.

What Would a New Community Look Like?

There are other subgroups, of course. Then there are iterations of all of the above on various social media networks and forums. I don’t feel a sense of belonging among any of them. From speaking to other roleplayer friends, I’m not the only person who feels lost in the crowd.

I’d like to open this up for discussion, to get other opinions. This is something I need to mull over. Should I start my own forum here? Make it a walled garden, and vet everyone who joins? Small seems like it would be more satisfying than mass. It would certainly allow the members of the community to get to know each other better. Less randos to deal with, fewer trolls to have to police.

I think there would need to be a statement of principles. Not a code of conduct. More of a mission statement, why the community exists, what its purpose is. Another manifesto, if need be. Like it? Join. Don’t like it? Go away. A space for us, the sane, the story-oriented, the inclusive, the ethically-minded. A safe haven for polite discussion.

More to come. Stay tuned.


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7 thoughts on “We Need a New Community”

  • So am I. There is a manifesto brewing, methinks. Those who dig it can join. Those who don’t find it to their needs, or their tastes, can move along. As with my whole business model, I’m not looking to please everyone, just gather up those who “get it”.

  • The fan group on Facebook has always been there. I’m the admin of that group. Its intent has always been to provide a place where you can be comfortable. It really is a blog set up for you and Dancing Lights Press.

  • Communities organized around a hobby or interest often evolve organically, with only the common interest to bind people together. You’re envisioning something more intentional.

    I’ve tried the whole “everyone is welcome” community building enterprise, and from my experience, this just doesn’t work. To create meaningful, authentic, safe community, one needs to set boundaries. And those boundaries ideally reflect the values and vision of the community, not its anxieties. Boundaries are protection, but more than that, they are a blueprint for creation. They define what behaviors support the vision and values of the community, and what behaviors compromise the community’s safety or integrity. Boundaries are about behavior, not individuals. So, clear boundaries still say “everyone is welcome” with the caveat that “this is what we’re building together, and this is how we’re building it.”

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