Art Supply Roundup: Sargent Art Gel Pens

A few months ago I was fortunate enough to find Artist & Craftsman Supply in Central Square, Cambridge, MA. I had been looking for some colorless blending pencils from Prismacolor one day and we decided to give them a shot. I'm so glad we did. Not only do they carry art supplies for all sorts of "serious" arts and crafts endeavors (they carry professional materials for everything from oil painting to bookmaking/binding, but they make an effort to include neat student level products as well, include at least three different sets of gel pens from Sargent Art.

The three sets are fluorescent, glitter, and metallic. Each set comes with 10 different pens and is packaged in a reusable pouch with snap. Before I go to far into my experiences with coloring with them, I wanted to give you an example of the different colors available and how they did on various paper. First up is a smooth white cardstock.

The colors here are all vibrant and the pens wrote fairly well. I did have some issues with the fluorescent gel pens which I think will be easier to see on the other papers, but I still liked them overall.

Here's the same pens, in the same order, on a piece of green cardstock.

Again, I think the ink went on pretty well on the smooth paper. Obviously, the green shades are a bit harder to see. For the fluorescents, some of the colors aren't quite as vibrant and seem a bit duller. Also, I feel like the glitter pens fared much better than the metallics.

Finally, here's the same pens on a piece of black construction paper.

The construction paper definitely presented some challenges with getting the gel to come out smoothly. However, while some of the fluorescents had issues, especially the yellow and orange ones, overall I thought they held up pretty decently. Unlike the green cardstock, the glitter pens didn't do as well as the metallic gel pens. Mainly the glitter pens on this paper look like I put glitter on the page, with the exception of the more silver colored one.

A few other things to know about the pens. As you may be able to see in some of the images, the ink can pool sometimes, especially at the start and end of the lines. Also, the line isn't always consistent. Finally, these inks can take awhile to dry and are easy to smudge if you're not careful (left-handed people in particular might want to take note of this).

I forget exactly how much I paid for them, but I believe it was under $6 for each set. When I consider that I pay nearly a third to half that for one metallic silver Uniball pen, I think they are worth the price. I love using them as accents on my coloring.

Here's an example where I used my Crayola Super Tips markers to color a flower in yellow and then went over it with the orange and yellow glitter pens.

I used the metallic gel pens to color in the crowns on this page.

The important part here, in my opinion is to just have fun and don't feel that just because it's in the kids' area that you can't have fun with it and create cool stuff.

Using "Professionalism" As A Sword

A few months ago at work, some people suggested a book to me called, "Death By Meeting:A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business." One of the biggest complaints people have with meeting is that often can seem like they are getting in the way of work. Thus, the common "solution" is just to not have meetings. Everyone wins, right?

The book posits a different theory. The problem with meetings often has less to do with the concept of meetings. We will spend hours doing other, meeting-like things, such as watching movies. Instead, the problem is often how we apply the tool. One of the differences pointed out is that unlike other meeting-like activities, what meetings often are missing is tension, and dare I say it, conflict.

Business culture, at least in the US, is often characterized by not rocking the boat. People often are worried that disagreeing, keeping people honest, and the like will hurt their careers rather than help them. And there is a fair bit of evidence, in my opinion, to support those fears. However, I think there are two important points to keep in mind here. 1) While widespread, at least in the US, is this actually common human behavior or common to the founding classes of the business world and 2) Does this culture promote what we want or does it hinder it?

On the first point, this culture of going along and not rocking the boat reminds me a lot of descriptions of stereotypical WASP family holidays. Everyone is mad at each other but no one actually talks about it because that's just unseemly. As a result, family feuds and dramas often go on for years, sometimes without the offending party ever knowing what they did or even that they did anything.

Not only does this lead to misunderstandings and what seem to be unexpected outbursts, but it hinders innovation. If we can never point out the negative, we can never improve, iterate, grow. Additionally, what I've found is that this outlook allows for pointing out positives that are actually negative statements about something else. "Oh, you dress so much nicer than your sister does!" "Oh, I love how you use color images rather than those other people who just include black & white sketches."

So, why am I bringing this up? Because it's the issue I continue to have with OneBookShelf/DriveThruRPG's handling of the recent controversy. A recent post by their RPG Publisher Relations Representative, Meredith Gerber, has the following:

The feedback we have received from both customers and publishers has been appreciated and has helped us shape our new policy. We want to thank you for the time and energy you have taken to reach out to us. Those that have spoken with us in the past know we are always happy to talk to customers, publishers, and partners to have a professional dialogue about concerns.

When having discussions about these types of situations, it’s always important to remember that being professional and kind in feedback will create better dialogue. It’s very difficult to continue a conversation and figure out the message when hateful words are said out of anger and spite. If you do not agree with someone, take a moment to step back and breathe before stating your opinion. There is also nothing wrong with walking away from a conversation if it's going around in circles with no conclusion in sight.

This is also echoed in various posts by other OBS staff about "call out culture" and "outrage," etc.

Here's my problem, I think they are honestly confusing tension and conflict with unprofessionalism. They are applying one type of culture and saying that this is some objective standard for how to act, ignoring that other people may have different standards. They are also misrepresenting some of the feedback they received, grouping questions about why it was even allowed on their stores what would be truly unprofessional, such as making fun of someone's looks.

I'd have no problem with them saying, "If you would like to discuss this with us, here are our boundaries." Instead, they are using claims of "unprofessionalism" as not only a silencing tactic but as a way to say that their critics are objectively bad. Additionally, I understand wanting to defend themselves in these situations, especially given how uncomfortable they can be. However, many of their barbed words towards the people who brought up the issue to begin with seem to violate their own arguments. And it's particularly frustrating because the initial comments made by people who work at OBS was that we should just ignore the content.

When a company is as big as OBS is within a small market such as ours, I think it's important to speak up and point out this still. I understand it's not always a comfortable process and I am against those who say truly horrible stuff, but I can't stand by and let them use their arbitrary standards of "professionalism" as a sword against others.

Quick Tip: Blending Color Pencils with Baby Oil

Now that I have card stock, I can try out a few things I've been wanting to do. The one I happened to pick up is called Accent Opaque Digital by International Paper. It's 8 1/2" by 11", smooth, 65 lb, and white. I paid $11.99 for 250 sheets. For the experiment, I printed out one of the images from the history of Paris book I detailed in this post.

Clothing during the reign of King Louis XIII

So first, the tools. In addition to my Crayola color pencils, I used baby oil, a palette (it has handy reservoirs for holding the oil), and tortillions.

Tortillions are pointed stubs made out of rolled paper often used for blending with graphite pencils. The way this works is that you color an area you like with the color pencil. Once you have the color the way you like it, you dip the tip of the tortillion into the well of baby oil and then go over your color pencil with it. It should smooth out the color a bit and help blend colors that are adjacent. Here are some before and after examples.

Things to know:

  • The oil didn't go through this cardstock but you should always check yours on a spare piece before using.
  • It's important that you have the color where you like it *before* using the baby oil. You won't be able to go back over it later to add more color.
  • Some people have used cotton swabs instead of tortillions and liked the results better. I didn't try them here, but they seem to be great for larger areas.
  • The tortillions can hold on to the color a bit. You can clean it off (and resharpen it) on a bit of sandpaper. You could also get several and reserve one for each color family.

If you are interested in learning more, here are a few videos I found useful.

Eventually I'd like to use Gamsol, which seems to work a bit better from the videos and allows you to go back over it with color (which baby oil does not). But it's also flammable and the fumes are toxic so I'm going to hold off for now until my technique overall is better. But, if you are interested, here's a great intro video on using it.

Quick Tip: Labels for Unlabeled Markers

Recently I bought the 80 marker set of Crayola Super Tips Markers. I had the 20 marker set already but I was feeling limited by the choices and thought I'd get the 80 marker set. There are a few things I wish I had known before I had done so. First, as with the 20 piece set, the markers are labeled with colors. Also, the 80 marker set comes in a big box, so even if I could start to memorize what the colors were like on actual paper, there's no way I could keep track of which marker was which.

To help with this problem, I went to an office supply store today and got some half-inch diameter circular labels. Half-inch happened to be what the store had in white, but feel free to change the diameter to fit your tastes.

I went through and colored each circle with the current marker and then put the circle on the barrel of the marker. I put it near the end, below the area where the cap would cover and above where my hand was likely to rest.

I did them in batches and I think the whole endeavor took me less than 30 minutes.

Now they aren't going to be perfect, in part because markers can act differently depending on the paper and also because part of how various colors appear to us depends on what is next to them. But it should help depart a quick understanding of intensity, tone, etc.

Suggestion for further improvement: Number the labels before you stick them on. You can then create your own color wheels and charts and know you are referencing the correct marker in your set.

But you are good guys fighting bad guys!

Content Note: Rape, Sexual Assault

Yesterday OneBookShelf released its updated policy. While I think it's a good thing that there is now a policy, I have several issues with it. Many of my issues, especially the lack of an actual apology for the way Steve Wieck acted are covered by this article.

Here, however, I want to concentrate on a particular portion of the post describing the new policy and the reasoning behind it.

2. When we were first alerted to the offensive nature of the book, I used administrator privileges to download and skim through a copy of the book. At its core, the book was an adventure supplement where the goal of characters was to stop demonic entities who were perpetrating sexual violence and murder. The rapists were clearly the villains to be stopped, something that I believe many critics of the book could not have known from the book's title and vague description.

Sounds possible right? Those people who reacted to the limited information they had just over reacted because they had no idea what was actually in the book. As others have put it, the book really is about good guys fighting clear (if perhaps ill-advised design wise) bad guys. Silly SJWs!

Except it's not an accurate portrayal of the book. Yes, the characters in the book are categorized as bad guys (there's a caveat here that I'll go into later). Yes, the players are intended to fight them (again another caveat). However, it is not true that the goal of the players is to stop these NPCs because they are the bad guys or villains. That is one of several options offered AND in multiple suggestions the player characters could have completely different reasons for wanting to participate in the Tournament including that the player characters themselves are bad guys.

I had included the screenshot of this section yesterday, but I think it's worth writing out the content so it is accessible to everyone.

Involving the Players

It's possible that the player characters might get involved in the Rape Pure for reasons of their own. While it's likely the heroes might encounter one or more Rape Pure Fighter's on their own terms, attacking the fighters in ambush, on the street. However, the campaign might take a dark turn that drives the heroes into the Rape Pure itself.

It's possible to compete in the Rape Pure and keep your honor. Sexual violence is a threat, but (usually) not a requirement. It's not necessarily to violate a fallen adversary, only kill them, and most adventurers hold moral codes that demonize rape, but not cold blooded murder. Of course, it's possible that your player characters are pure bastards, and are every bit as horrible as the Rape Pure's worst fighters.

Among the reasons that players might be forced into the Rape Pure:

  • Kidnapping is the most obvious route, as someone precious to the characters is stolen and claimed as a tournament's prize.
  • The player characters are hunting a particular horror, possibly Taru Tsuyoi himself, and the Rape Pure is the only place they know he'll be, making the bout their only viable avenue of attack.
  • Martial artist PCs might enter the bout to test their skills and build a reputation among the deadliest fighters in any of the three realities.
  • The heroes might belong to one of Black Japan's military or police organizations, sent undercover to put a stop to these atrocities once and for all, their consciences be damned.
  • A Rape Pure bout might be cover for an unrelated matter, such as a meet with a contact, or an assassination that takes place in the chaotic press of the crowd.
  • The heroes might be tasked with finding and rehabilitating a Rape Pure fighter, likely a Fallen Eyrines, rebuilding the warrior's soul and reawakening his or her honor.

Also, while the involvement section says it's likely the player characters would meet one or more of the fighters on their own terms (meaning outside of the tournament), the supplement doesn't provide any suggestions for setting that up. Instead we get the rules of the tournament, a d20 random table of places where a tournament might take place, and a d20 random table of who is in the crowd watching the tournament.

Additionally, remember that caveat that the NPCs and creatures presented in the book are all the "bad guys?" Well one of the ways to involve the player characters is as an attempt to find and rehabilitate one of the fighters, in particular one of the Fallen Eyrines. I think it's important we look at that description.

Short Description:

Fallen Eyrines – CR 6 – Medium LE Human Monk (hungry ghost) 7 – A former vigilante who discovered she had more in common with the Rape Pure monsters she was killing than she realized

Long Description:

She fought her first Rape Pure bout for the best of intentions.

Undercover to save a woman’s life and sanity, or to kill some sadistic motherfucker who used his dick like a weapon. She took the kill-shot and realized she liked it. She fought another bout, killed another monster, but she took her time with this one. Made the kill hurt. She could’ve pushed the bastard’s nasal cartilage up through his frontal lobe, ended it instantly, but she didn’t. She broke fingers, snapped rips, dislocated knees, severed testes. Enjoyed the work, the kill. She enjoyed the next kill, breaking some Rape Pure bastard with her strong bare hands even more, not even noticing that her anti-rapist supernatural talents were starting to sting every time she activated them.

A few more kills under her belt, and when she tried to call upon her Eyrines power, her hands burned. She realized what she’d become - a monster getting a thrill off domination and violence. She was only one thin moral notch above the men she was killing. She left the Okinawa safehouse, knowing she wasn’t worthy of sanctuary there anymore, and worried her former sisters might execute her. Or worse yet,rehabilitate her.

Now, she keeps to the shitty neighborhoods. To the shadows and the capsule hotels, always sits with her back to a wall. The other Rape Pure fighters want her cunt, carved out and put on a plate. The oni she used to want the same damn thing. Her sisters? Do they still have her back? She doesn’t know. Probably not. The only thing that makes her feel even remotely human is the call to a new Rape Pure, Hell’s very own ringbell. She either kills another human cockroach, or she gets killed herself and the nightmare is over. A win either way.

We can understand wanting to explore that line between hero and monster, right? But if we are to believe the narrative, that the players only play good guys who are out to hunt down these rapists, does this not undercut that? A fallen Eyrine is not a clear cut "bad guy" but rather a warning of what happens when one attempts to view the world in such stark terms. Likewise, the intent from the section on including players is that this character is meant to be someone the player characters can try to redeem. The intent is not that they should fight her, although as with everything in this book, they can if they want to.

Now, I don't want to be misunderstood. I am in favor, in general, of having shades of grey in my game. I actually fear oversimplification and the reduction of most everything into terms of good and evil, lawful and chaotic, more than anything in this book.

But what I am tired of are people who present a false narrative of what is in the book, particularly trying to explain this book as a book full of bad people that the players, as good guys, are intended to fight. While it likely makes the people saying that feel better, it's just not true. You don't have to condemn it for what it is (although you can if you want to), but don't misrepresent it either.

Furthermore, even if that narrative was true, that doesn't protect the book from criticism. As Steve does point out, at least some of the content was not written in a way sensitive to the subject. I'd argue it is way more than just some but that's another matter. We need to be able to discuss this content and not be told by the distributor that we're wrong for doing so. We need to be able to discuss this treatment and not have that criticism be dismissed because they are bad guys.

And this is why the discussions that surround these products are often so toxic. People dismiss saying, "oh it's not that bad" or "well, that's not what was intended," when, in reality, it actually is that bad and intent doesn't matter when discussing the harm done. When other people call them on it, they say it's the people raising the concerns who are toxic. BULLSHIT.

And this is not about removing all books that deal with difficult or dark topics. Are there some people who are calling for that? Sure. But the vast majority are saying that they want to have a discussion about how these topics are presented. If people are allowed to say that they think this title should be present on OBS, you have to allow for people to say the opposite, especially if you say you value free speech. Saying that something shouldn't be there doesn't magically make it not there. In this case, a thorough review was done before it was fully removed from OBS and the current policy proposal reinforces that with the exception that it might not be available during the review IF it looks questionable.

However, until Steve can demonstrate that he understands what people were actually saying (he doesn't have to agree, just demonstrates that he understands), I'm sorry, I can't use the site anymore. I'm looking into removing the urls that I have on this site that point to OBS and I'm telling Jeff that I, personally, will no longer direct people to D&D Classics on the Tome Show podcast. Before backing any future Kickstarters, I will ask if they have alternatives to OBS for distribution and if not, sorry, I will not back. I will work with all creators to find alternatives to buying their products but I cannot and will not support OBS because I can't trust Steve's judgement at the moment.

If I Were to Craft an Adult Content Policy for a Major RPG Retail Site

Content Note: rape

Seemingly in response to the criticisms directed at it, OneBookShelf/DriveThruRPG made the following statements:

Just to be clear, when they say title in this case, they mean the pdf as a whole, not just its title.

Obviously, there's a lot to be said here, but I want to concentrate on one part, the way this now ties to a policy and guidelines of adult content. If you have been following some of the comments made by people who work at OneBookShelf, one of the issues they were struggling with is where to draw the line for adult content, instead of say concentrating only on this product. I believe this is what Steve Wieck was discussing in these tweets.

Personally, I feel like putting most actions (beyond the obvious addition of the adult flag and removal of the Pathfinder tag) until one can create an overall adult content strategy is the wrong play here. I think it's pretty clear that this book is a few standard deviations beyond the types of evil presented in books like The Book of Vile Darkness. For instance, here's the description of the tournament.

And on how to involve the PCs

I also think using a game supplement that concentrates on rape as the launchpad to discuss adult content as a whole sends a strange message especially as adult content usually (but not always) really means nudity and sexuality, whereas rape is about control.

Rather than do an expansive policy regarding adult content, I would attempt to craft a more narrow one that covers the use of rape in content hosted on the site. For the first round, I might even limit it to the RPG portions instead of it being a companywide policy, but I'm not sure if the OneBookShelf terms allow for that.

Within that limited scope, I would put out a call for feedback, one with a definite end. I'd give at least two weeks but perhaps up to a month. I would treat this feedback much in the same way that WotC handled the playtest feedback, distanced and as a way to look for holes in ones own thinking. Also, I would acknowledge that many of the people providing feedback would not have specialized knowledge in how to fix the problem, just that many of them would be able to see where problem areas might be.

Furthermore, I'd solicit input from various groups who might have that specialized knowledge. I'd talk to sexual assault and rape survivor advocate groups. I'd talk to respected people in the various kink communities. I'd talk to people like Laci Green and Sexplanations and a whole slew of people who have 1) learned to separate their own sexual mores, preferences, and the like from discussions of sex and sexuality and 2) may have knowledge on how to present thorny topics such as rape in a way that is supportive of survivors and less likely to perpetuate rape myths while also being supportive of sexual practices that many consider to be too close to rape for their own tastes. These specialists are likely to have the training to differentiate the sort of consent that happens during a rape fantasy from the lack of consent that happens during sexual assault and rape.

This group wouldn't have veto power or anything like that. They are there to consult and provide their own unique perspectives. As such, they should be allowed to give their forthright opinion without it being interpreted as an attack.

I'd also use this time to review any applicable laws that I might be subject to regarding this type of content as well as any policies my vendors (such as PayPal) might have.

After all of that, then I would then release a policy that reflects the goals and values of the company and leave it up to the sellers and consumers to decide if it works for them. The policy might have to be refined and iterated over, but hopefully it's narrow enough to not require too many changes or to affect so many publishers that the changes lead to uncertainty or feel arbitrary.

If another area that constitutes "adult content" seems like it needs a policy, I'd repeat this exercise.

Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant (NSFW)

Content Note: Rape, Sexual Assault

“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

Recently a product was added to DriveThruRPG that has caused quite a bit of controversy. The pdf, "The Tournament of Rapists," claims to detail a group of sexual predators who all participate in contest (with a multi-billion yen fight purse) in which they kill and rape to win.

The Tournament of Rapists details the sadistic Rape Pure Fight circuit, expanding on what you've seen already and introducing dangerous new sexual predators. The sadistic bloodsport takes place in abandoned office buildings and atop Tokyo rooftops. An assortment of superhumanly powerful and inhumanly misogynistic men, and even worse women, step into impromptu fighting arenas, killing and raping the weaker in search of a multi-billion yen fight purse provided by a half-oni billionaire in thrall to dark impulses.

I'm not going to sugarcoat things. This is horrendous in and of itself, and people were right to complain about it, especially when it originally was added to the store with the Pathfinder flag set even though it violates the Pathfinder guidelines. However, as is often the case in situations like these, the response from DriveThruRPG was worse than the original incident.

For days I read comments on social media from an employee at the company. I want to make it clear that he said we as speaking for himself, not the company, and I will not directly quote him here or release his name. However, he was speaking about the concepts that surround this controversy, specifically that people pointing out that this existed were doing the wrong thing and questioning whether or not they or anyone should be gatekeepers of content. That's right, he was blaming the people offended by this pdf. One of the claims he and others made would be that if people didn't comment on it, it would just fade into obscurity and that the creator would realize it wasn't profitable and hopefully stop.

Except there's one glaring issue with this. As the product copy says, this pdf "expand[s] on what you've seen already and introduc[es] dangerous new sexual predators." This means that there are already sexual predators in the setting and this work is just an expansion of that. While it doesn't mention it in the copy, this sourcebook is part of the Black Tokyo setting. It's hard to know exactly which books are part of Black Tokyo on DriveThruRPG, but when I search for Tokyo and Urf, I get 43 items.

One item on the list is Black Tokyo: Chastity and Depravity. The product copy for that book starts with:

Black Tokyo began as a passing whim, evolved into a complete gaming supplement, and somehow, against all the odds, became one of the best selling products ever released by either Skortched Urf Studios or the fledgling Otherverse Games. Despite the extreme subject matter, and adults only purchasing restrictions, Black Tokyo has sold... and sold... and sold some more. So we are now pleased to announce the long-awaited follow up to Black Tokyo

Another work in the game is Black Tokyo Legends -Sex and Story. Here's the product copy for that book.

Sexuality defines Black Tokyo- enjoying wet pleasure with willing (or not) new lovers, exploring the limits of the body and the limits of morality itself are as important of challenges as slaying oni and battling Amakaze minions. Convincing a cute 19 year old bishonen to offer you his virginity is a function of social skills- especially Diplomacy, though less honorable and more sexually predatory characters can try their luck with Bluff or Intimidate.

The Tournament of Rapists is not the first work in which rape is made a part of the game. Across multiple product descriptions, part of the setting is that the PCs don't have to be good people. This is definitely true in The Tournament. The text allows for PCs to join in the bloodsport or otherwise ally with the participants and it's not even clear that they would have to fight the characters listed therein. So people who are trying to position this book as a group of bad guys that the PCs are to fight against are just flat wrong. While groups can decide to use it that way, it's not a position the work itself takes.

Finally, I think it's important to understand what is actually in the book. Especially for people who like to "give the benefit of the doubt," it's easy to argue that what is in the book can't possibly be that bad and believe that like many other works that deal with adult content, there is a fade to black before things get really bad. So here are a few examples.

Phallic Swarm

They have an ability called Triggering:

Phallic Swarms are basically the raw concept of rape incarnated, and are especially fearsome enemies to those who have suffered previous sexual abuse. Any creature that has ever been raped or sexually abused is considered paralyzed for 1 round if it falls victim to the Phallic Swarm's distraction ability.

That's right, they made PTSD into a mechanic. Also note how under Melee, they do 1d8 pleasure damage. WTF?

MRA Woman-Breaker

Oh look, an MRA character that just had to go to Black Tokyo to participate in the competition because it's everything he's ever wanted. Charming! But also notice that none of this description undercuts the MRA. For instance, his sense of fragile superiority gives him an actual bonus against women. It's not included in this screenshot but the text also says he's handsome, even saying "of course he is."

Why go through this exercise? Because it's important to understand the actual product and the fact that it comes from a setting with other products that explore these same concepts before we can discuss the impact of the comments, especially those made on twitter by the CEO of DriveThruRPG. You can see the majority of those comments in this post.

First, notice that the Pathfinder tag and age restrictions were added by DriveThruRPG, I believe after the initial round of complaints. Had no one said anything, I believe it's likely it would have stayed as originally submitted, but I may be wrong on that.

Then we get this interchange between Jessica Price and Steve Wieck.

I'm going to give Steve the benefit of the doubt and suggest that he may have believed the false narrative that this is a book of bad guys for the PCs to beat up. However, that doesn't excuse the actual response in the context of the original question. If that is what he was thinking, then he should have responded, "Hey, I think there's a misunderstanding here..." and stated his understanding of the product. Instead, this seems to perform a false equivalence on the two types of adventures, suggesting that to ban on would necessitate the ban on the other.

This is the comment that made me decide not to use DriveThruRPG or the family of OneBookshelf in the future. The argument here is just maddening and shows that he not only doesn't understand the product he is defending but also that he fails to understand the objections to said product. The Tournament goes multiple standard deviations beyond the Book of Vile Darkness, so much so that the only proper first response to this tweet is to roll on the floor laughing.

I get that with Twitter it's hard to have nuanced arguments, but then the best thing to do is not to get into them on Twitter. And if you decide to anyway, it might be a good idea to make sure you understand both the work and the arguments being made by the other people. In addition, try not to make false equivalencies during your argument or oversimplify if what you are arguing is that the other people are oversimplifying.

Additionally, don't make arguments that ignoring a product will make it go away when it's clear that the product in question is a continuation of previous products that people have ignored that had similar themes. It's already clear that the publisher is not going to cease creating this type of product. And even if it was created solely for the purpose of getting attention (I'd argue that is possible since it seems to be the first work in the series that doesn't have the author's name on the cover), understand that ignoring it doesn't suddenly make our community better. Instead, what will happen is that it will be whispered about among those who are offended and even harmed by it and one day the whispers will get out and everyone else will feel blindsided and argue that such things can't possibly exist.

I care less about the arguments over whether or not the ban the product than I do this hurtful reaction that happens nearly every time something like this happens. Please, stop blaming the people who are harmed by the product and get educated on the issues so you can discuss this without doing even more harm.

Coloring Book Fun - Raspberry Fairy

Lately a lot of my energy has been spent on stress and anxiety relief. One thing I've found that really helps with that is coloring. I spent a few hours a few weeks ago coloring in a coloring book page and enough people liked it that I thought I'd share how I did it here. I'm not an artist (although I had a good art program in school growing up) and there are many ways to color. If it's something that interests you, just remember do what is fun for you!

Work setup and materials

I used a folding tray table in front of the couch as my workspace. My main materials were:


The first portion of the page that I tackled were the raspberries.

First I started building the color of the raspberries. On the left, I have the raspberry pencil as the first layer and maroon as the shading. On the right, I've gone over the berries on the bottom half of the page with magenta.

Finally, I went over the berries with the red.


Next I did the stem. The base was done in the color sand, then harvest gold, and next yellow green.

Finally, I went over the right half of the stems with jade green and then the right edge with dark brown.


Then onto the leaves. Base of leaves is harvest gold, followed by yellow green, then jade green.

Next the leaf vein. Base is bronze yellow followed by brown and then gone over with a hint of raspberry.

To polish up the leaf, I used my colorless blending pencil to go over the colors and blend them a bit better together.


After finishing up the leaves, I colored in the flowers. The base is white and I used sand and cool gray for shading.

I didn't keep good track of the colors from this point, but I think it gives you a good idea of how I layered colors to get what I want and used different colors for shading.


First a base of sand and then I believe the color is tan.

For the trim (and the leaves right next to the berries), I started with a layer of yellow green, followed by jade green, and then regular green.


For the wings, I used white as the base. The little sections are done in yellow and I used cool gray for shading.


For the hair we started off with sand and tan then I used long strokes of light brown, brown, and dark brown.


After that it was just a few more finishing touches. In particular, I went over the thorny areas on the stems with the raspberry color.

Looking for more?

First, Stan! has a great coloring and adventure book called Dungeoneering 101. The pdf is just $2. Since it's suitable for ages 6 and up, the drawings won't necessarily be as intricate as many adult coloring books, but I had a bunch of fun coloring one of the pages during a recent business trip.


There's also a KickStarter for "All the Colors of Magic" volumes 2-4.

Deep Dive: 5E Barbarian

In preparation for my new campaign, I'm taking a look at the various character classes in hopes that I can add moments of cool regardless of which characters my players choose to play and also can sidestep some awkward moments at the table. I'm hoping to go through the core classes (from the 5e player's handbook) in alphabetical order which means we start with the BARBARIAN! (Sorry, couldn't resist the all caps there.)


Winter Barbarian by Kaitlynn Peavler (@thedicegoddess)

The primary mechanic for barbarians is their rage. Rage lasts for up to one minute (essentially an encounter) and how many times per day they can rage is linked to their barbarian level. It ends early if the character is knocked unconscious or if they end their turn and either haven't attacked a hostile creature since their last turn or have taken damage since their last turn. During their rage, barbarians gain access to the following modifications:

  • Advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
  • Melee weapon attacks that use strength gain a bonus to the damage roll (tied to barbarian level).
  • Resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
  • Lack the ability to cast spells or concentrate on spells already cast.

There's a lot here. The first thing I note is how simplified rage is, especially compared with the Pathfinder barbarian. It feels to me like a good middle ground between the Pathfinder and 4e versions.

In Pathfinder, a barbarian gets to rage a number of rounds per day determined by their barbarian level. Here's what happens when they rage:

  • Gain a +4 morale bonus to Strength and Constitution and +2 morale bonus to Will saves.
  • Suffer a -2 penalty to Armor Class.
  • Gain 2 hit points per Hit Dice (due to Constitution increase). They disappear when the rage ends and are not the first lost.
  • Lose access to skills based on Charisma, Dexterity, and Intelligence or abilities that require patience or concentration.
  • When the rage ends, they are fatigued for a number of rounds equal to 2 times the number of rounds spent in the rage.

In 4E, barbarians gained access to special Daily powers with the rage keyword. Once a barbarian used one of the rage dailies, one of the following things happened: the encounter ended, the barbarian chose to end the rage or switched to a different rage, or the character became unconscious. Each rage had an ongoing benefit that was tied to the theme of the rage and other abilities might interact with the rage keyword.

The 5E rage acts a lot like the 4E version in terms of the mechanics of how often one can rage and when it ends. One of the nice things about not tying it to rounds is that it lightens the cognitive load of players trying to determine whether or not *now* is a good time to enter a rage.

What further lightens that load is the lack of penalties for entering a rage and for deciding to come out of it. I know when I played my barbarian gunslinger, most of the time I didn't even bother to rage because determining which rounds were the best to do so in and what I'd give up to do so was often more work than I was prepared to spend.

Gnoll Barbarian

Gnoll Barbarian by Jared von Hindman

Some people will enjoy that sort of decision making and they'll still have the opportunity to make those sorts of decisions. Instead of making the penalties part of the core raging mechanic, 5e separates them out into additional decisions. For example, at 2nd level, they gain access to Reckless Attack, which allows them to decide on the first attack of their turn to throw caution to the wind, gaining advantage on melee weapon attacks that use Strength during the turn, but granting advantage to any attack rolls against them until their next turn. I need to play it to find out, but this version feels much more dramatic to me than the +4 bonuses to Strength and Constitution and the -2 penalty to Armor Class (but your mileage may vary).

Moving penalties to more precise decisions, with their own carrots, gives the player more control over the risk they are willing to take. Additionally, the added risk due to the resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage a barbarian gets while in a rage (Note to DMs, make note of the resistance rules at 1st level if you have a barbarian in the party). Obviously, there are plenty of monsters, especially at higher levels, that do other types of damage, but this combination sounds like it can set up some great scenes with a cinematic feel to them.

For those who like the ongoing penalty after the rage, the Path of the Berserker offers players the opportunity to go into a frenzy starting at 3rd level. While in a frenzy, barbarians can make a single melee attack as a bonus action on each turn after entering the frenzy. When the rage ends, the barbarian suffers one level of exhaustion (which is some potent stuff). Again, this feels a bit bolder to me.

Also, by not providing default penalties to Charisma, Dexterity, or Intelligence skills, the barbarian is less likely to be turned into a caricature during play. Other options are still available during the encounter. For instance, in 5E barbarians also gain a danger sense at 2nd level that boosts their Dexterity saving throws. This sort of dodging figures strongly in many barbarian stories I've read, it just never was as iconic as strength.

However, I think there are a few complexities to the 5e barbarian that players should be aware of. In addition to the resistance, I'd like to pay particular attention to tracking barbarian resources during play. For instance, there's a bunch of information to keep track of that resets each round while the character is in a rage. The player needs to know if they took damage and/or attacked a hostile creature since the end of their last turn. If they haven't, then they will lose the rage. Also, the damage done by attacks differs depending on whether or not the barbarian is in the rage. The generic character sheets don't really help with this record keeping. (Fortunately, the record keeping ends at 15th level.)

Another area to keep in mind is that the Path of the Totem Warrior gives the barbarian access to some spells, allowing them to cast them as a ritual. At 3rd level, the barbarian may cast beast sense and speak with animals spells as a ritual. For DMs who want to make non-combat encounters an important part of their game, they may want to plan in opportunities where these spells are one way to gain a favorable outcome in the game. They may also want to prepare for clever players who use these spells to gain what could be considered "too much" information about a combat encounter ahead of time.

I'm not going to look at everything that gets added at higher levels, at least not in this post. I hope this helps illustrate some of the cool things about the 5E barbarian as well as some of the areas to be wary of, especially for DMs. One last thing, however. During the design of 5E, there was some talk about wanting to make ability scores important again. One area in the barbarian class where that comes up is with the 18th level barbarian class ability called Indomitable Might. This ability allows the player to substitute in their Strength score if the total for a Strength check is less than their score. That's pretty cool!

Note: There's one thing I'd like to point out regarding the barbarian, in particular the Path of the Totem Warrior. Barbarians that follow this path pick a spirit animal as a guide. There has been a lot of discussion about the spirit animal meme online and I think it's something to be aware of. Here's an Atlantic article the discusses some of the appropriative nature of this concept. This is also a great discussion of usage of the term "spirit animal" and counters some of the arguments that the term is not tied to Native Americans and/or First Peoples.

Steal This: La Cité à travers les âges (Paris)

Last week, I mentioned the art and story of Goblin Market, written by Christina Rossetti and illustrated by Laurence Housman. This week, I'm sharing another book from the British Library collection, La Cité à travers les âges, as far as I can ascertain a book about the history of Paris. I'll be up front, I don't know enough French to read the book, but I thought some of the illustrations from the book were well worth sharing. Just a quick note, I don't know how historically accurate the book is but I also don't think that's as important for our purposes here.


One of the things I liked about it were the small sketches about clothing through the centuries. Not only does it look at clothing from the 13th through 18th centuries, but the work provides examples of clothing commonly worn by people of different socio-economic ranks. So we see a paysan (peasant) in the same group as a dame noble (noblewoman).

Understanding the differences in dress can make campaigns richer. How far in detail you go depends on you and your group but even just mentioning that noblewomen seem to have more decoration to their dresses and the material seems more flowing or less bulky can help.

Additionally, the various accoutrements can lead provide inspiration for other NPCs in town, someone is either making them or bringing them to the area. Also, if you tire of yet another side quest that could be summed up as a beer run, a necessary item of clothing that was ruined or is unexpectedly needed can provide a diversion.

13th Century Clothing
14th Century Clothing
15th Century Clothing
15th Century Clothing
16th Century Clothing
16th Century Clothing
Clothing during the reign of King Louis XIII
Clothing during the reign of King Louis XIV
18th Century Clothing


In addition to clothing, there are a few illustrations of various items including architectural details and furniture. As with clothes, how various items look often change through time, whether due to fashion or advancements (or declines) in technology. In addition to adding richer details, variance in styles, especially in game art, can help show the story of an area in ways that there might not be space to write.

Architecture details
Armor and Weapons
Music instruments


Books like this can provide nice illustrations of maps that can be reused in a variety of games.

Earlier map of Paris
Later map of Paris

Buildings and Landmarks

Buildings and other landmarks are a common subject for historical illustrations. This book has some that are rougher and older from earlier in the history and others that are more refined (for instance, a cathedral without little to no Christian iconography could be useful as a temple to a god of civilization or knowledge).

La Tour de Nesle
Le Pilori des Halles
Ancienne Porte Saint-Martin
Le Petit Chalet
Moulin a Vent
Porte Montmartre


This book has a number of scenes illustrated as well. Taking the art out of context can provide inspiration for events and NPCs in your game as well. One of the things I liked about this work is the number of women present as key players in some of the illustrations of historical events.

Catherine de Medicis et son astrologue
La duchesse de montpensier et Jacques Clement

So if you're looking for inspiration, looking at the pictures of old books, even ones written in a language you don't read, can be fruitful. Happy searching!

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