Friday, February 7, 2014


Yesterday I got some personal email as well as comments on the post about 'dicks' yesterday. And I must admit it was all well meaning. And I do appreciate it when people say that at heart, people are good, or at heart, people don't know that they're being abusive and it really only needs to be explained to them.

Only, my experience doesn't bear that up.

For this argument, "Some times, people just don't know that they're doing it", to work, someone's going to have to explain why this happens. And in case the reader thinks this only happens with children, they're going to have to explain this. And this. And the premise behind this, which celebrates it. Oh, and also this. And, always, this bunch of fucks.

People don't know? Horseshit. People know. It's only that we have nothing but their word, and our willingness to believe, to tell if they do or don't. And people lie. They lie all the time.

Yeah. These guys have no idea they're doing anything odd. And the asshole laughing ... he's a really great guy.


JDJarvis said...

Some folks simply like to advance themselves at the expense of others, they are being dicks. We don't have to like it and we don't have to accept it. It is possible to be better.

I know what it's like to be attacked by a gang of kids (at the age of 12) for no other reason than they wanted to beat people, I had done them no wrong,I didn't even know who the heck they were, I still got beat for no reason along with a few other kids they ran across and beat the hell out of. Luckily one of my friends who isn't a dick found me laying there just after I was attacked and ran after and spotted a few of them. Over the next couple of weeks a few of those dicks got the hell stomped out of them by my friend and I, we had a reason: they were dicks. No amount of talking was going to make them feel ashamed, this was also back in the days of "boys will be boys" so going to authority figures would have been pointless at best. Sometimes they have to be stomped flat. I got lucky they were pathetic bullies and ultimately weaklings so calling them out and slapping them down did the trick, other dicks deserve to have the whole world know they are being dicks not so they can feel bad but so others have the chance to defend themselves and slap them down.

Anonymous said...

Yes, people lie, cheat, and steal. But the human race has cooperated enough to have 7 billion+ of us on the planet today. I can't believe that we've been able to reach this level of survival without cooperation and the need for social cohesion being at our core.

If we want to see change, and stop the proliferation of just the worst of humanity being broadcast through all our various media, we need to be the change we want to see. We need to "fight the impossible fight," just like (to use a "nerdy" example) the army led by Aragorn in "Return of the King" at the gates of Mordor. There was no hope of winning if Sam and Frodo didn't destroy the ring...BUT THE ARMY FOUGHT ANYWAY! In the face of overwhelming odds and sure defeat, we need to fight anyway. And maybe, just maybe, sometimes we win that fight we thought was hopeless.

Alexis, neither you nor I know personally even a fraction of the billions of people on this planet. So, from either of our experiences, can we rightfully say that the negative experiences of our lives indicate the whole of the human condition?

Alexis Smolensk said...

I chose careful esamples, cbakerson.

One of those links has been PERSONALLY attacking me for four years, and my published book for a year. I know young people who have experienced what drove Amanda Todd to suicide. My neighbor from Darfour, who works here in Canada as a security consultant, has been under fire from negligent air strikes. I used to work in journalism and the Murdoch shit pissed off mostly every serious writer I know. And everybody, everybody, loves that fucking Scorsese movie which shows no victims of the real life asshole who got a movie highlighting his appalling philosophy.

Yeah. I can rightfully say my life is being negatively affected.

Anonymous said...

Don't let the bastards grind you down! They don't deserve the satisfaction. They're just sad people, and again, there really isn't that many of them. For all we know, there are only a handful of Dungeon is Suck people.

Alexis Smolensk said...

It is a mistake, cbakerson, to think that the people committing genocide in Darfour and the people over at YDIS are in any way different from one another except in their particular circumstance due to birth, wealth or geographical location. It isn't just about not giving bad people the satisfaction - it is about getting rid of bad people. I don't give a hoot and hell whether dicks are satisfied or not - Me, I'm not satisfied, and that's not going to change by ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away.

As for there "not being many of them," you're just not paying attention. I think poor Amanda found there to be more than she could take.

Exactly how many does it require in your imagination, Mr. Bakerson, before genocide and teen suicide are enough of a reason to make the problem worth being ground down about?

Anonymous said...

Yes, these things are tragedies. But how do we respond? If we're too far away to help directly, do we then go about our day being suspicious of others, hating those in our immediate area because of the actions of shitty people half a world away? I for one don't want to give in to a notion that the world is an inherently "evil" place.

So, I ask, what's your thoughts on solutions? It's all well and good to smoulder with indignation. But what do we do? I suggest that we act the opposite way, and do what we can to fight back. Even if you believe that there is no ultimate victory over evil, and abusive, shitty people will never go away, does that mean we give up trying to be otherwise?

Eric said...

A lot of the people who "don't know they're doing it" do in fact know, and are taking advantage. Some of the remainder doesn't know, but if you tell them they don't care. And then you've got the ones who are just obtuse. Better to avoid them than try to deal with it, in my opinion.

Alexis Smolensk said...

"But how do we respond?"

Well, cbakerson:

1) I have a zero-tolerance policy towards abusive behavior at my gaming table and in my life.

2) I blog about why others should have this zero-tolerance behavior, pointing out the sorts of game play that encourages assholes to dominate the table and push others around.

3) I blog a lot, to a world-wide community, who are not "half a world away," with the expectation that people reading my blog in Portugal, Brazil, France, Russia and Hong Kong - all of which I can certify - are reacting to the same perspective I possess.

4) I take to task people who insist that bad things happen "half a world away," DESPITE my having given examples of things happening to me personally, in the United States, in Canada and so on. My neighbor, yes, once lived half a world away, BUT HE DOESN'T NOW, because they've invented air travel. So when you keep holding up this total bullshit about these really bad things happening 'half a world away,' you really look like a fucking jackass, Mr. Bakerson.

5) I don't let it 'get me down.' I don't do what people like you do, Mr. Bakerson, who throw your hands in the air and say "but what can we do?" There's a hell of a lot we can do. We can support anti-bullying legislation and offer personal support whenever it comes up. We can stop buying stock and supporting the stock market, and we can stand up for politicians who want to tax these mutherfuckers. We can stop paying to see dumbfuck movies like 'Bad Grampa.' We can STOP crying that it's all too fucking big for us.

There's lots to be done, Mr. Bakerson. Crying that you're too tiny or too small or that we should just try to ignore it and be happy is just your way of saying, "Fuck everyone in the world but ME."

You're the dick here, Mr. Bakerson. I wish you could understand that. But see, my job here is to try and teach you something about why your position is a stupid position, and why you have to stop telling people that the problems of the world are not their problems.

These problems need to be owned by all of us, Mr. Bakerson. And that includes YOU.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm sorry you're misinterpreting what I'm saying, Mr. Smolensk, and that you seem to be getting upset. You are entirely incorrect when you assume I'm "throwing up my hands" and giving up. Far from it, and I take offense at your audacity to assume something like that from the relatively few words I’ve written as comments to this blog post. For someone who seems to value evidence, you’ve made quite a drastic leap of logic, or perhaps illogic. Could it be that your choice to be suspicious of others has rendered you unable to keep my words in context?

Here’s the deal, Mr. Smolensk: I see being a good person to my friends, family, and strangers in my region of the world as fighting back against the injustices of the world. It's a mistake for you to assume, and put words into my mouth, that I believe I’m "too tiny" to do anything. Far from it.

I don’t buy stocks because I believe it’s tantamount to gambling and the people who control the stock markets are laughing at us while they suck us dry. I don’t watch TV or movies. I don’t consume blindly and laugh like a donkey at stupid bullshit slapstick like Bad Grandpa.

I appreciate your fervor. I think our intentions are the same, our beliefs are similar, but I think you've mistaken what I've said as being a "giving in" or "giving up." Short of getting airdropped into Darfor myself with some guns, I can't help there in some direct manner.

I own the problems of the world, Mr. Smolensk. Just because I haven't written in exhausting detail here about how I do so, doesn't mean that my efforts or my concern are non-existent.

I REPEAT: in no way was I saying that the problems of the world are not my problems. I'm scratching my head at how you arrived at that conclusion. Teaching my kids that what's happening in Darfor and what happened to Amanda Todd is heinous, and teaching them to find that sort of thing utterly repulsive, is how I'm owning the world's problems. Striving every day to say to myself "help this person" when I encounter a stranger in need, that is how I'm owning the world's problems. Those are the sort of solutions that I've come up with. I'm not sure if you approve, or if you think I'm not doing enough. But that's your problem.

You see Mr. Smolensk, I also have a "zero tolerance" for assholes. The difference between me and you, as I see it, is that I don't let the assholes make me see the world as a place full of assholes. I see the assholes as the exception to the rule, where you seem to suspect, by default, that everyone you see around you is an asshole until proven otherwise. I just choose not to see it that way. And that's exactly it: a choice.

If you’re shipping off to Darfor or heading out to track down and beat all of Amanda Todd’s tormentors in person, please let me know and I will go with you. Otherwise, you and I are doing what we can locally, so that future generations who see our example will perhaps put a stop to such things.

Anonymous said...

And P.S. I totally disagree with the premise that people who do heinous things "don't know what they're doing." That's one of the most utterly evil thoughts to ever been birthed, in my opinion. Just wanted to try and clarify that, but there's a chance you'll misinterpret even that definitive statement.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I heartily approve of this link. Back in '85, I watched a very large geek group of which I was a party, 17 of us, spontaneously implode with ALL of the GSF symptoms described.

I do have a slight touch of GSF4, but only because I like large parties. I don't manifest symptoms of the friend of a friend thing, thank gawd.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I apologize, Mr. Bakerson.

I'll take down my previous response when you say.

Eric said...

I do feel obliged to say that Bad Grandpa had some surprising depth to it. I was dragged in just expecting cheap slapstick, and there was certainly plenty of that, but it's actually got heart. Not a timeless cinematic masterpiece, but not what I'd go to for A Canonical Example Of What's Ruining The World either.

Clovis Cithog said...

Expulsion is often the best solution.
Education and confrontation seldom acquire the desired goals.
. .
“There is a difference between animals and humans,
“If you are patient, with enough trials, after many
“repetitions; animals will learn from their mistakes.”

Unfortunately, humans are very poor at taking partial rejection,
“I don’t wanna be your lover anymore, but can we still be friends?”
I agree with your ideas, but I disapprove of your grammar.
.. ..
The dilemma a DM faces is whether it is worth destroying a friendship when a person is only a part time dick such as only when playing hockey or gaming

Anonymous said...

Hey, :)

Wow... well, hmm... I certainly wasn't expecting these developments.

There's a difference that I can't seem to make coalesce in my head, between dysfunctional behavior (i.e. causing unfun) and disruptive behavior (i.e. being a dick). I've seen too many examples of dysfunctional behavior corrected through good old-fashioned conversation to just discard it.

By the same token, there's a difference between circumscribed disruptiveness and general disruptiveness. The guy I mentioned in my other comment, he's one of the most generous and good-natured people I know. He just doesn't grok the concept of an RPG game. So I don't play RPGs with him.

I mean, I do understand and subscribe to your larger point. I don't have a good relationship with bullying, and I have an obscure tendency to get on people's faces for even making fun of someone else gratuiously. Still, it's very hard for me to equate a random bout of selfishness from an RPG player with what basically amounts to sexual abuse or outright genocide. Plus, I do a real bad job of getting along with alpha males.

So, believe me when I say, I totally agree with you that some things are not to be tolerated, ever. But, I do think it's worth the effort to find out whether a given situation falls under those headings.

Investing in people is always a valid choice. Most of the time, I'll grant you, it's just not worth the effort. But some times, people surprise you. I'd rather waste my effort than miss the surprises. :)


Jomo Rising said...

Instructing a sociopath on the error of their ways has no value. They always believe that their abusive behavior is normal, and that the real fools are the ones that don't participate in it. These fools are actually dangerous, because they do not abuse, are not normal.
Not all abusive DnD players are psychopaths, but where is the line between arrogant self-centeredness and psychopathy? Not for the untrained DM to determine. There is a door, use it.

Jomo Rising said...

Small sample, but over that last year, I have lost four RPG players due to their arrogant, competitive attitudes. Is my experience so unusual? I am happy with the seven I have now.

Anonymous said...

Hey, :)

"Instructing a sociopath on the error of their ways has no value."

If you're just generally agreeing with Alexis's post, cool. Please disregard this whole comment.

However, if this is meant as a response to my comments on this post or the one linked at the top, it's a true straw man argument, if I ever saw one. What you say is imminently true, but at most tangentially related to what I said.

As a simple example, illusionism as a DM technique has been espoused widely and deeply by many a DM and on many gaming advice texts, including this very blog, at times in the past. It's just the way many people have been taught to play the game. Me, however, I consider it a form of abuse. A particularly mild form at that, but still abuse. What I don't think, however, is that illusionist DMs are sociopaths!

Hell, I used to be an illusionist DM, and then I realized what I was doing. I've spoken to a fair number of illusionist DMs, and they too shifted their technique set. True, not all did. The ones that didn't, I simply don't play in their games. But some did.

In my book, summarily showing these people the door is either incompetence, laziness or both. "Untrained DM"? "line between arrogant self-centeredness and psychopathy"? These are just excuses, plain and simple. If you don't want to deal with the people, don't. Nobody is forcing you. But don't sit there and claim it's the only available strategy just because you don't know any better.


Alexis Smolensk said...

"... including this very blog ..."

I don't believe I am a proponent of 'illusionism.'

Anonymous said...

Hey, :)

I haven't read through your whole blog, yet. I'm still in mid-March '12. That said, I don't think you are an all-out proponent of it either, Alexis, but you have advocated it. :)

Then again, I'm going to concede that it's possible I may have misread you. Right off the bat, I don't think I did. (In fact, when I wrote what I wrote, I figured, this guy is awesome six ways from Sunday, can I be wrong about his? Then I thought, no. If I am wrong, he'll tell me. And he won't pussyfoot about it, neither.) So, here we go:

What follows is from The Sandbox Magician:

"you will do very well to have something in the bank that is also 'interesting' and attention-drawing, which could easily be in the tavern, or the inn, or in a back alley, or anywhere at all in fact that the cynic insists on going anyway."

(Emphasis mine.)

The above is, in fact, the crux of illusionism.

Naturally, it can be said that the cynic himself is also a pushy abuser, guilty of anti-gaming (generally called turtling), and that abusing the abuser is fair game. I would, in fact, subscribe to this sentiment, which is why I don't feel you're an all-out proponent.

(Incidentally, the following excerpt from the same post sounds like illusionism, and the word is even explicitly used, but is patently not:

"the principles lie in the same presentation as that offered by an illusionist or other form of magician. You raise the left hand, you wave the hell out of it, you draw the player's attentions to what you going to do with the left hand, and then you hit them with the trick. You don't let them walk into the bank because something really, really interesting happens on the street that draws their attention."

For me, in fact, it happens to be an entirely different problem, but that's a whole other conversation...)


Alexis Smolensk said...

Ah, I remember writing this. And you're not right about your judgement, zooggy (J.).

Illusionism is where the party has two doors to choose from, and no matter which door they pick they're going to get the dragon. Or bugbear. Or whatever I pick.

On the other hand, if I have an idea that the party could meet a Pirate woman, and the party doesn't because they decide not to attack the ship on the horizon, THAT DOES NOT MEAN I can never have them meet the Pirate Woman in a nearby port.

You're mixing "forcing a party to do what you want" with "eventually presenting a character for the interest of the party." There is a VAST difference between there being only 1 option for the party and the DM having 50 ideas in a bag that are all going to get eventually used when it's convenient. You might as well say that if I write a book with a Pirate Woman, that doesn't get ready, I'm never allowed to write that character again. That's crazy.

As far as waving my hand this way to make you look over here, you're wrong again. A DM, like any other showman, or entertainer, is ENTITLED to manipulate a party as much as he or she wants, so long as that manipulation implies a CHOICE. I won't make you take the door on the left, but sorry, I will fuck with your head as much as I like to encourage you to take the door on the left; tough luck for you if you're weak and open to suggestion.

This is how THEATRE works, after all. By lying to you.

Alexis Smolensk said...

"... that doesn't get READ ..."

Damn blogger and it's inability to edit comments.

Carl said...

I forgot about that waste of skin over at YDIS. Boy, you sure twist his tit, don't you?

Your very existence seems to give him some kind of Thombar's hemorrhoid of the mind, all swollen with bile and pus.

Personally, I think that if he's willing to expend enough energy on you to draw a caracature (which I assume was drawn by one of his minions - there's no way he has anything resembling artistic ability) and generate some 800 sock-puppet comments to enhance his rant, you're definitely doing something right.

On the other hand, maybe it's some kind of performance art.

Either way, you should be flattered that you inspired someone to write so much about you.

Keep up the good work, Alexis.

Anonymous said...

Hey, :)

"As far as waving my hand this way to make you look over here, you're wrong again."

I did say explicitly that this was not illusionism, so I'm not sure what it is I'm supposed to be wrong again about. ;)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

Honestly, I'm glad to have misjudged the post I linked. I agree, there's a vast difference between having one trick ready or a large bag of tricks from which to pick one. And I also agree that having such a large "bandolier of bangs" (to co-opt a narrativism term) is a crucial component of a healthy sandbox.

That said, my original point for Jomo stands. While I believe illusionism is inherently wrong, I'm not ready to label illusionist DMs as sociopaths, and I definitely think there is very high value in instructing them on the error of their ways.


Jomo Rising said...

I did agree with Alexis's post, therefore I am disregarding your comment as instructed.

Regarding having a psychopath in your gaming group, it is dangerous for anyone to try to 'fix' or work with a psychopath. An abusive player, who may or may not be a psychopath, gets exactly one chance at my table.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Point in fact, from records, psychopaths tend to be either inordinantly reclusive, or the kindest, sweetest people you've ever met, if a wee bit plastic in their sincerity. It is very unlikely that the asshole and dick at your table is a psychopath, Jomo, and really ... please ... let's not dilute the term by sheltering many ridiculous, pathetic people striving for attention and unearned self-worth under that banner, hm?

That said, one chance is usually all that's deserved. But I'm not the State of California, and I'll give as many chances as I deem appropriate - I take zooggy's point. Occasionally an asshole will stop being an asshole if asked to be; that point does not deserve flat out dismissal.

Of course, it's only a legend at this point, as I have no personal examples ... but I have run across too many people who tell the same tale as zooggy to argue that it's impossible.

Anonymous said...

people know (self-awareness) but they don't mind cause it makes them happy.