SDCC 2018: Representation And Inclusivity In Gaming With Lion Forge

by Noah Sharma

The panel began with introductions, including name, career, and first system. The panel was moderated by Steenz, an editor at Lion Forge and the artist on Archival Quality from Oni Press, she started with Mage the Ascension. Cartoonist and podcaster, Jen Vaughn‘s first RPG was a homebrew system “featuring a lot of dragons”. Shing Yin Khor; a cartoonist, installation artist, and creator of the tender D&D twitterbot, began with Shadowrun. Max Bare, a comic artist and illustrator, was the panel’s latest convert, having only recently tried Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Finally Josh Trujillo writes and edits comics and video games, including Death Saves: Fallen Heroes of the Kitchen Table, having started role playing by designing stats for Clue characters.

Steenz opened the panel by asking what inclusivity meant in gaming. For her, it means access, particularly economic access, and she championed having RPG books in libraries. Trujillo felt that comfort at the table is paramount, having different levels of experience and ability to accommodate all of them. Bare and Khor both spoke about getting past the rules to the fun of the game, realizing that the GM is there to ensure that everyone is having a fun time crafting a story rather than merely enforcing the rules. Vaughn felt that the visuals used in official sources are also important, showing players that they are represented within these worlds and that fantasy or sci-fi don’t have to be just one thing.

Steenz credited a great deal of the current RPG resurgence to podcasts. RPG podcasts have been embraced by many publishers, who see them as both celebrations of the game and free advertising. Khor sees a key element of their success being the way that they have connected gaming with more traditional fandom, getting people to realize that writing fan fiction or creating OCs is not foreign to RPGs, in fact it essentially IS RPGs. Vaughn is a member of the D20 Dames podcast, which focuses more on storytelling and problem solving than combat, another convention of the genre that can be seen as a barrier to entry. The podcast also features an entirely female party, though she assures us that they make sure to have rich, fully developed male characters in their stories.

Josh Trujillo came to gaming through an AD&D manual that one of his friends found somewhere. At the time Dungeons and Dragons was still very associated with Satanism and the ‘Satanic Panic’ so his mother insisted that if he was going to play, she had to watch to make sure it was safe. She did stay and watch for the full hour and a half session, confirming to her son ‘alright, you can play…but I don’t know why.’

Vaughn actually got her start roleplaying characters from Piers Anthony’s Xanth universe, something that received a worried groan from the crowd. Vaughn acknowledged the validity of that response, describing the series as one where women were described “bust size first and hair color second”, but defended its influence on her; it’s where she picked up her love of puns.

Rolled& Told has its own adventurers to follow, love, and play as, giving players new and old something to grasp onto.

Lion Forge’s Rolled & Told magazine will include a full module, including maps and a comic, in every issue. The magazine will also include articles to help new players and GMs learn how to improve their skills and get used to role playing games. The magazine has a fantastic community vibe to it, not only inclusive but encouraging.

The first twelve issues are all going to be based in D&D 5th, but there are plans for a second year to move into Pathfinder and then to go beyond. The magazine needs to reach that point first, though, so buy liberally.

Asked about how gaming has affected her as a comic creator, Khor admitted that she sometimes creates modified character sheets for her characters. Bare spoke about how drawing and designing characters as artists has enriched his campaigns. For Trujillo RPGs have really taught him about what characters want and how to avoid forced scenarios in his writing.

The panel gave some advice to a GM who has players in the ‘winning the game’ mindset. Inspiration and incentives for role playing was a popular one, while Trujillo pointed out that giving those players roles outside their usual patterns can give them a sense of importance while teaching them to try new things. Vaughn also pointed to flaw systems, and encouraged GMs to ask players to change one word in their flaw. All of a sudden ‘suspicious of most people’ can become ‘suspicious of most objects’!

The panel, forgetting that these are RPG fans, requested that questioners take a knee. They enjoyed it thoroughly.

The panel ended with a give away, including Rolled & Told #0 and dice bags for all in attendance.

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