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Just for Funsies Transcript
[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]
Monstrous Agonies presents: Just for Funsies.
[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through dance music, a voice saying “-twenty five-”, pop music, a voice saying “-you can just imagine what it's like-” and more pop music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]
-treat yourself with the same loving patience that you extend to your friends.
That's all we have time for this week. Tune in next Thursday for more from our advice segment as I answer your questions on liminal living.
Now, have you ever wondered what it might be like to be somebody else for the day? You might be thinking of more traditional methods of perception sharing – possession, scrying, Borrowing and so on. But my next guest and his companions prefer to use that rare but simple magic available to all people, regardless of genus – their imagination.
We spoke to Rowan Patterson, game writer and long-time fan, about the world of roleplaying games – a style of game where players take on the roles of their characters and create a narrative together in an act of collaborative storytelling.
Let's get one thing straight – I'm not talking about Dungeons & Dragons. You couldn't pay me to play Dungeons & Dragons. I don't care that it's the most famous tabletop RPG out there. It's a lousy, stinking pile of offensive garbage and I can't believe people still give it the time of day. I mean, they literally have a thing called the Monster Manual. It's disgusting!
I mean, look at me. I'm over 14ft around and nearly twice as tall, and I'm no pretty thing either. Not putting myself down. I mean, I think I have a certain rugged charm. But according to Dungeons & Dragons, dryads only ever appear as dainty, sexy ladies. Do I look like a dainty, sexy lady to you?
D&D is the whole reason people think roleplaying is a sapio hobby. D&D was the prototype. It set the tone for everything that followed.
It's like Lord of the Rings. People don't want to do the hard work of coming up with their own ideas, so they rip-off Tolkien instead. Before you know it, they've gone and made yet another pseudo-medieval European world where all the goodies are blonde, pale-skinned elves and the baddies are dark-skinned, animalistic orcs.
So now, thanks to Gary bloody Gygax, there are a million, million RPGs where liminal genuses are cast as NPC bad guys, sucking all the nuance out of the cultures they claim to be inspired by.
Despite this early hostility to the creature community, liminal gamers managed to carve a place for themselves in the roleplaying world, creating games that affirmed and celebrated their liminal identities.
Some, like high fantasy Whisper Grove, were explicitly written with liminal genuses in mind, taking the opportunity of the medium's flexibility to create stories that centred on a liminal view of the world.
Others, such as the legal roleplay The Night Court, simply sought to avoid the habitual anti-creature sentiment that plagued so much of mainstream roleplaying, rejecting stock characters, plot-lines and settings for their own, more inclusive ones.
Then, with the development of the internet, liminal roleplaying fans were able to connect with each other like never before. And with that connection came an explosion of interest.
It used to be that, if a game was written by a person of the night, nobody else would play it. Even well-meaning sapios were put off, afraid that they'd be overstepping by playing as someone else's genus.
But with the internet, they could, you know. Ask! And we could answer. Like, yeah, actually, it is offensive to put revenants in your game as nothing but mindless combat encounters. Who knew! Or, no, it's not cultural appropriation to make your character a troll. Just maybe don't act out the Sacred Rites of Stone just for funsies.
And- And you know it-it wasn't just about liminal players. I mean, the whole landscape of roleplaying saw this shift. People started talking about the racism inherent in certain game worlds, or how to run a game that would be accessible to disabled players. It wasn't a total shift, mind you – you know, [laughing] there's always arseholes! But, you know, it broke down a lot of those walls.
The question of cross-genus roleplaying – playing a character whose identity does not match the player's – has long been a concern for those seeking to create more inclusive roleplaying communities. Generally speaking, however, that question has only been asked in one direction – that is, whether sapio players can play liminal characters.
But since the mid 2000s, there has been increasing interest in games designed specifically for people of the night to roleplay as sapios. For tabletop fans, games like Belchley-on-Sea, Little Shop of Crushing Mundanity, and Moms! gave players the chance to explore the sapio world in the comfort of their own homes.
Meanwhile, players seeking a more immersive experience, complete with costumes, props and elaborate character encounters, gave rise to the development of a whole new genre: the Sapio Live Action Roleplay.
[laughing] Oh, I love to SLARP! SLARPing is my passion! Oh, there’s nothing quite like it, getting together with your friends and spending a weekend wearing your little button-up shirts and “going for a coffee”.
[laughs] One my favourites is Neighbourly, an annual, three-day event set on an ordinary residential street. [beat] I mean, I say “ordinary” - there’s nobody there but sapios, so how normal can it be, eh? [laughs] The organisers take over a whole housing development every year, it's incredible!
You get assigned a house depending on your characters class and income, and basically spend the whole weekend in character. It's a proper little community, with a wee shop and a pub. There's even a take-away so you can pretend you’re going to order something new and then end up getting the same thing you always do. [laughs] It’s totally immersive!
I like the office-based games best, though. I’ve got a character called Scott who I’ve been playing for a few years now. He works in Sales, he wears Lynx Africa even though he thinks he's too old for it because his mum buys him a gift set for Christmas every year. [laughs] Oh, and he's got a secret cat called Philip who he's hiding from his landlord! It's so sweet!
I-I know it looks daft from the outside. Honestly, it's pretty daft on the inside, too! I mean, the last time I went to an office game, one of my pals had a personal goal of getting sent to HR. Only he ended up getting his tentacles caught in the photocopier trying to work out how to make copies of his arse! [laughs]
On one level, that's all it is – just a bit of fun. But on another level... I don't know. It sort of becomes this weird thing you're making together. And you have to take it seriously, at least a bit. It only works if you're all going along with it.
Now, I know Scott's not real, I'm not delusional. But he feels real. When I'm standing there in my wee suit, clicking through slides and saying things like, [pompous voice] “Well, we haven't yet hit the tipping point where this is going to yield real dividends, but the potential ROI in future cycles is significant...” [laughs] I mean, it feels real. Like we're making something real, together. Silly, but real.
In recent years, some sapio voices in the roleplaying community have expressed concern about such games, accusing the games' creators and players of cultural appropriation. Rowan left us with this word for such would-be critics.
Cultural appropriation? Jog on! First and foremost, “living in a house” is not a culture. “Officecore” is not a culture. There's no such thing as “sapio” culture, and even if there was, I think it'll survive being poked fun at by a bunch of geeky creatures in fancy dress.
But hey, you know what? If you're a sapio and you're listening to this and thinking we're taking the mick, I'll make a deal with you. If any one of your sapio listeners manages to go the whole festive period without seeing another sapio dressed up as an offensive creature stereotype – not a single Primark zombie or a bin-bag vampire – then we'll pack it in and call it day. How's that for a deal, eh? [muttering] Cultural appropriation, my hole. Don't know what they're talking about, bunch of numpties. What is going on in this world... [fades to silence]
Our thanks to Rowan Patterson. Follow Rowan on social media @RedberryRow for gaming news and updates on his latest project, Touch Base, a tabletop RPG set in the world of corporate comms.
Time now for the news.
[Background music fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through guitar music, pop music, a voice saying “-and in the meantime-”, a voice saying “-stay asleep-” and classical music before fading out.
Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]
Just for Funsies was written by H.R. Owen and performed by H.R. Owen and Alan Burgon.
You may know Alan from The Amelia Project, a dark comedy podcast about a secret agency that fakes its clients' deaths. Alan also stars in The Secret of St Kilda, where he plays charismatic con-man Lockie MacGregor who fakes his death – bit of theme here, Alan – and makes his new home on a small Scottish island among the members of what is definitely not a cult. See the show notes for social media links and website details.
Submissions for letters and prompts are now closed for Season Three. We are still accepting adverts, however, so send them in through the website, via email at email@example.com, or get in touch through our Tumblr account, @MonstrousAgonies, and on Twitter @Monstrous_Pod.
This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.
Thanks for listening, and remember - the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.
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