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Role–Playing Subculture

By Alex Loke


Role players, like mysterious skin growths, come in all shapes and sizes. And much like those skin growths, we're difficult to remove without lasers or a nice sharp scalpel. Now suddenly, I find myself in a position where my metaphor has gone horribly wrong, and if it isn't too much to ask, I'd like to back away now.


So what is point of this month's column? Well, to be honest, I'm not exactly sure. Writing is a horrible progression that begins with a deadline and ends with various states of panic. Inspiration is part of the end cycle.

So let me begin again anew.

Back on topic, through my unsubstantiated "years" of keeping diverse company, I've come across the broad spectrum of geeks, dorks, rules lawyers and fanboys. So let me approach this like an academic — without the initial belt of Glenfiddich.

I find the best (read: easiest) way to classify a sub–culture is through the use of broad stereotypes. Role–players are no exception. Though I would love to live in a society where we didn't pigeonhole minorities, I find that being one of those said minorities, influential people will listen when I complain — no matter how irrational I may be (and I am). Power through diversity is what I preach today.

There are those that preach togetherness — that we should unite into one giant mechanical monstrosity and crush cities beneath our collective heel. The unfortunate flaw in this plan is that inevitably we leave ourselves open to the might titanium tail of Mechagodzilla. Not a prospect I would like to entertain.

So how do we reduce the risk of running into inevitable radioactive death? The same way we rationalise a defence budget. Specious reasoning!

Unfortunately our inability to insinuate ourselves into mainstream society (see geekspotting) means that we shall always be outcast. So my contention is that we form our own subset — like any other society with it's minorities, prejudices and idiotic and outdated laws.

No longer will be chained to the shackle of "role–player". We shall become "those pale skinned D&D weenies", "evil gothic Vampire freaks", "Magic sell outs" and "Shadowrunners".

First, we find ourselves an independent state — close to a ready source of Asthma medication. Armed with our superior knowledge of warfare, gained from years of pushing little lead figurines across a table when we were going through our "war–gaming phase", none would stand in our way. We find little to resist our armies of undead, summoned with the supposed power of the Players Handbook. The remaining elements of the conquered are cleaned up efficiently by the elite Live Role Player Guard, who fall upon them with heavily–padded death.

The populous basks in the glory of Grand Moff Peter Adkinson, who lead the push for independence as he rides victorious down the road paved with Dragon Dice. His first official announcement: "What Everway?"

With a Machiavellian political system derived solely from Mark Rein Hagan's fertile imagination, and administered by his efficient Camarilla host, we become a utopia of shifting alliances and pierced gothic women. A Constitution is written overnight, amidst much snickering from the D&D 3rd Ed Players. The Reinocracy is born!

The world's economy becomes ours, with no computer safe from our elite hacking skills — obtained from perusing Steve Jackson's Games GURPS Cyberpunk — and baffling the Secret Service (more so). The world is thrown into chaos by the mischievous diverting of all Disney's web traffic to the stileproject.

Soon, the new state has settled down, the buzz of a decisive victory fading to a steady hum. Colonel Richard Garfield appoints himself General: The Garfield in an effort to one–up Grand Moff Adkinson. Adkinson retaliates by publicly cursing him with a -1 to all saving throws.

To curb fears that the populous will be unable to support itself without their mother's pension checks, Adkinson announces Budget D20. The magnanimous Adkinson releases the product under an Open Budget Licence — which is adopted by many emerging Baltic states. Backdoor royalties paid to Adkinson increase his already incredible fortune, enough to allow him to be remade in his own image. Adkinson's fiercest political opponent Steve Jackson delivers his Budget GURPS alternative to little fanfare and his ideas are quietly suppressed. In protest, Jackson refuses to wear pants, or shower for a month.

Already faults can be seen in the burgeoning Reinocracy.

Cartoonist, turned political commentator Jolly R. Blackburn, writes a scathing issue of Knights of the Dinner Table, depicting Adkinson as the "Despotic Megalomaniac". Furious with his depiction, Adkinson appends the word "Friendly Neighbourhood" to the title. As punishment Blackburn is then given the choice of repeatedly watching the D&D Movie for a day, or leaping from the highest peak of the Mountains of Doom. His insightful humour will be missed.

After months of heavy conflict, between the Undead Legions of WotC (Wizards of this Country) and corporate America wanting their IT staff back, one side finally falls. In the end, the more soulless side emerges the victor, and Adkinson is forced to cede a small portion of his skilled computer staff — who have to be dragged from their unfinished games of Counterstrike and steady diet of porn.

In a horrible twist of irony, President Gygax assumes leadership, after a successful coup to dislodge Grand Moff Adkinson. Adkinson flees the capital and swears revenge. Gygax's first announcement is for a revision of Budget D20, citing that the nation is in for "one heck of a Dangerous Journey (TM)". He revokes the statement after the threat of legal action.

Crippled by the horrible ratio of 50,000 men to every 3 women, birth rates drop. The female population drops dramatically overnight when one of them decides to leave "those acne–ridden freaks" to their fate. To counter this, President Gygax is forced to institute a program of human cloning. However, his efforts are shouted down when only one volunteer, Tim Bradstreet, willing to subject himself to self–appointed Science Officer John Tyne's frenzied probing, steps forward.

Parliament is dissolved due to massive faux–depression inspired apathy, compounded by it's inability to function in daylight hours. So–called "havens" are raided during the day in an effort to force a reconvening but Camarilla members respond by rolling over and pulling the covers over their heads. Literally.

UN sanctions on Mountain Dew and cola drinks make the general population lethargic. Starvation is widespread, caused by the unwillingness of pizza delivery boys to accept cred sticks or Warhammer 40K novels as currency — deeming that neither has any inherent or agreed value.

An uprising by the Alliance for the Advancement of Cathartic Role–playing is largely ignored. Steve Jackson removes his pants as a sign of solidarity, hoping to lead others to do likewise. Steve Jackson is also largely ignored.

Anarchy reigns as more and more city states fracture from the main. Feeling that they were never really there for any other reason than to make up numbers and win popular support, the Pokemon CCG Anonymous League forms it's own republic. However, the peace is short lived, inevitably, due to internal infighting to discover who was the most powerful trainer of all.

Unable to stop the separatist states, Gygax points the finger of blame solely at Yoko Ono.

Roving bands of Werewolf players roam free and unrestricted. The population is stemmed, however, when Shane Lacey Hensley carves out his own settlements in the north. His eccentric rule is marked by his insistence that their society was powered by the mystical "ghost rock" and not plutonium. Three days later he is found dead, sitting in a rocking chair on his porch, cradling a scatter–gun and more "ghost rock". Reports suggest he perished of a condition that had all the hallmarks of radiation poisoning.

Finally, a starving populous, convinced by the daring rebel Han Adkinson that Gary Gygax does indeed taste like ham, storms the Presidential compound. Unable to locate Gygax, the mob settles for a rather surprised Dave Arneson. Witnesses later commented that he was "kinda gamey".

The mob continues, burning as they go. Gygax escapes the capital in his Gaxmobile. In true historical fashion, Gygax plays Magic while his city burns.

So there you have it. This is the reason why role–players will never rule the world. This is also the reason why one should start an article with a clear goal in mind, instead of just blind inspiration. I wish I'd taken the Glenfiddich.

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