Monday, August 14, 2023

Happy Anniversary, STA App!

 It is hard to believe that B.C. Holmes' Star Trek Adventures character builder app is celebrating its second birthday today, but that is a fact!  Over the past four years, I have been running an every-four-to-six weeks' LGBTQ+ themed STA RPG campaign. Our game reached its 49th episode this weekend, and I can't tell you how many main characters, supporting characters, starships, and space sectors I have created using this app!

So thank you to B.C. for creating it! I check it often, because new features are being added all the time.

Happy Anniversary! Engage!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Con of the North - My Games and How to Register


Con of the North 2022 happens from February 18-20, 2022. Event sign-ups should go live on Thanksgiving. Advance sign-ups are already open for GMs. The convention will have both an in-person component and a virtual track. This year, I am opting for the virtual track. 

Here's how to participate:

  1. The convention website is here. That's where you start.
  2. To sign up for events, you first need to register for the convention, which you do on the convention's Tabletop Events webpage here; click on the Buy Badges link to the upper right to get started. This page also has a link to the convention's Discord server, which is where most virtual events will occur.
  3. It is worth scrolling down and reviewing the badge types. If you are looking for a virtual-only play experience, that is only $5.
  4. Once you have purchased a badge you will be able to select events.
  5. The Attend selector on the Tabletop Events page allows you to see the convention schedule and select events. 
Here are the events that I am running as part of the virtual component of the convention:
I am hoping to see some of you in my games!

Monday, October 25, 2021

ConFABulous 2021 Program Schedule

ConFABulous 2021 is a free virtual gaming convention for LGBTQ+ people and their friends is scheduled for Saturday, November 6 (with some gaming events also scheduled for Sunday, 11/7). 

ConFABulous will have one high quality programming track on 11/6, with panelists participating via Zoom, and broadcast on the convention's YouTube panel. 

RPGs will happen on 11/6 and 11/7 via the ConFABulous Discord server.

See a panel you'd like to be on? See a game you'd like to play? The first step is to register for the convention. You sign up at ConFABulous.orgThen email if you want to be panelist or sign up for a game.

The convention website will be updated in about a week with the final schedule of programming and games, but in the meantime, here is the full schedule as it stands today:

Panels - Saturday, November 6

  • 10-11 AM - What Have You Read Over the Last Year? The North Country Gaylaxians Book Club has continued to read an LGBTQ+ SF/F book every month, and we know that a lot of people have stepped up their reading and participation in virtual book clubs. What have you read, and was it good?
  • 11:30-12:30 - Media Tie-Ins with Games: Catherine Lundoff writes media tie-ins for games, among other things, and specifically for Onyx Path Publishing’s World of Darkness series. She's written stories for the 20th Anniversary Edition of Vampire the Masquerade and the 20th Anniversary Edition of Wraith, and as of today, a story that became a game scenario for Ghost Hunters. She is eager to discuss media tie-ins and horror game writing.
  • 1:30-2:30 PM - Hot Robin Covers - and Loki - Exploring the New LGBTQ Characters in Mainstream Comics and TV series based on the comics. What's queer, what's not so queer, and what's good?
  • 3-4 PM - How did you get your gaming fix during the pandemic? What worked and what didn’t? What are you going to keep doing that you started in the pandemic? What games were you excited about this year? What games worked well this year and which ones didn't?
  • 4:30-5:30 PM - What’s queer and good in new TV series? Includes Picard (second season), Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, Foundation Trilogy, Black Widow, Legends of Tomorrow, Killjoys, Batwoman, etc.!
  • 7-8 PM - Ask A DM: Level-Up Time! Our ever-popular panel in which people talk about their experiences as dungeonmasters/gamemasters, and answer people’s questions about how to offer engaging and effective roleplaying experiences.
  • 8:30-9:30 PM - An Expanded Universe After All: How Is the Star Wars Universe Changing With All the New TV Series, Movies, and Comics?


Gaming - Saturday, 11/6 and Sunday, 11/7

  • Saturday, 11/6, 1-3 PM - Troika! RPG: Adventure across the humpbacked sky! Troika is a complete yet wildly-open RPG. Players can expect to fly through mystic space, get lost in infinite cities of the gods, and meet strange & wonderful people all the while using a robust and familiar game system. We will be playing Micah Anderson's "Carnelian Riddle in the House of Indolent Blooms", an entry to the Troika! Pamphlet Adventure Jam, in which you are commissioned to rob a sphinx, infiltrating his garden party, meandering through a semi-hostile demiplane segregated from the flow of time. Up to 5 players. GM is James Bacigalupo.
  • Saturday, 11/6, 8- 11 PM - Thirsty Sword Lesbians RPG: "The Coffeehouse on the Edge" - You play a lesbian with a sword - and feelings and desires. You have a coffeehouse on the edge of fairyland to defend against gentrificaiton in this slice-of-life adventure in a world with magic, swordplay, romance, and creeping (creepy?) capitalism. Rules are easy to learn. Up to 5 players. GM is John Till.
  • Sunday, 11/7, 1-4 PM - Everway-Silver Anniversary Edition RPG : "The Quest for the Queer Sphere" - You play Spherewalkers with the ability to use gates to walk between worlds in this multicultural, mythic, high fantasy RPG. Out now in a new edition via Kickstarter, Everway uses a Tarot-like Fortune Deck to determine the results of character actions. The focus is on narrative and story. Rules are easy to learn. Up to 5 players. GM is John Till.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

My Games At Gamehole Con 2021


I have four games planned for the virtual game track at Gamehole Con 2021, October 21-24, 2021. To sign up for these events, you need to register to attend Gamehole Con here. Once you have done that, you can select events. Events opened for sign up today!

Here are my events, and a convenient link on the Gamehole Con page to all the events that I am running:

Tekumel: Prince of Barsoom, Thursday, October 21, 1-4 PM CT: A new emperor sits on the Petal Throne and has charged you with hunting down a rebel Prince who has escaped through an interdimensional Nexus Point. Find the Nexus Point and follow the rebel Prince to Barsoom, the fabled Red Planet of of John Carter and Dejah Thoris. Swords & Planet adventure on two worlds! The Worlds of Tekumel and Barsoom involve adult themes including slavery and sexuality. While these themes are not the focus of the game session, players should be aware of this before signing up for this game session. Game will be run on the convention Discord server. This game uses the John Carter of Mars RPG (2d20 System) from Modiphius.

Tekumel: Over the Wall, Friday, October 22, 3-6 PM CT: Your clanhouse shares a wall with another. There has been no sign of activity next door in an entire day, which is extremely odd. Relations with the other clan are strained, as they have a history of not paying their fair share in wall repairs. The elders also suspect that the neighbors have tunneled under the walls of your clanhouse at some point. Considering the odd lack-of-activity next door, your clan elders authorize a little expedition over the wall, to find out what has been going on. The World of Tekumel involves adult themes including slavery and sexuality. While these aren't a focus of the game session, players should be aware of this before signing up for this game session. Game will be run on the convention Discord server. Fate of Tekumel RPG system.

Everway: the Great Return, Saturday, October 23, 6 PM-10 PM: More than 25 years ago, Wizards published an RPG with three booklets in a white box. Everway reinvented fantasy gaming, taking things to a mythic level in which you play Spherewalkers exploring the Multiverse. Characters were created using Vision Cards, and a Tarot-like Fortune Deck was the tool for resolving character and NPC actions. At the center of everything is the great City of Everway, the city with the greatest number of gates to other Spheres in the Multiverse. Now back in a new Silver Anniversary edition, this is your chance to experience this unique and visionary RPG for yourself! Visit for more about the game and the setting. Game will be run on the convention Discord server.

Lex Arcana: Terrors in the Snow, Sunday, October 24, 2-5 PM: You are elite members of the occult investigative unit known as the Lex Arcana, a special chapter of the Roman Emperor's Praetorian Guard in a Roman Empire that never fell. You use augury, physical might, brainpower, and sheer Roman audacity and will to preserve the empire and conquer its enemies - natural or supernatural. On this mission, you travel to the snowy mountains to the north of Italia, where the elephants of Hannibal's legendary invasion of Italia have seemingly returned to terrorize the living. Game will be run on the convention Discord server. Uses the new English language edition of Lex Arcana RPG, the most popular Italian RPG!

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Three on Climate


Andrea Hairston's Master of Poisons is set in a fantastic version of West Africa besieged by an ever-worsening climate crisis. Poison winds blow from the east, gradually eroding and poisoning farmland, cities, and even the ocean.  This is Hairston's first full-on epic fantasy, but her writing style is as vivid and at times bewildering as in her earlier novels. Short chapters of 4-6 pages are written from the point of view of Djola, an exiled member of the ruling Council of the Arkhysian Empire, or Awa, a girl who is in training to become a griot or storyteller. 

Djola is on a quest to end the climate crisis; he searches for a magical cure that will prevent the collapse of the Arkhysian Empire. He loses his family, and eventually gains terrible magical powers. Awa is sold by her impoverished peasant farmer father to the itinerant Green Elders, who are gender nonconforming travelers, shadow-warriors, and mystics who live in the wilds to the east of the Empire. Awa has the ability to enter the Smokelands, which are a layered, spiritual otherwhere which faces an ecological crisis of its own. Gradually the stories of Djola and Awa come together as ecological, social, and political crises converge.

This novel was the June selection for the North Country Gaylaxians Book Club. As far as I know, I'm the only book club member who finished the book. Hairston's style in each of her novels is fragmented and demanding. The payoff doesn't happen quickly. In my case, I had to get to around page 250 before I felt certain I would read all 507 pages of the story. However, I am glad that I did!


One of the recurrent challenges for Hairston's characters is whether - and when - to use violence. They are trying to save their world from poison sands and from opponents who are only too willing to use violence (conventional or magical) to expand their power and to "control" (and sometimes hide) the crises their world is facing.

Andreas Malm's How to Blow Up a Pipeline is no "Ecologist's Cookbook"; people who are looking for practical advice on how to carry out eco-sabotage won't find anything useful here. Instead, Malm presents an ethical argument for the use of violence by the environmental movement. His argument will be pretty familiar to people who were active in CISPES in the 1980s. For both the Central America solidarity movement, and for the Salvadoran revolutionary movement, there was a recognition of the need for strategies that broaden the movement (i.e., bring more people into active participation) and strategies that radicalize the movement (i.e., the adoption of bolder, more militant strategies and tactics that advance the movement and take political ground from the enemy).

While the environmental movement of the 1990s certainly had elements that espoused and used violence (in particular Earth First! and proponents of the reactionary ideology of Deep Ecology), by the 2000s, the environmental movement had largely eschewed such tactics. Malm's concern is that the environmental movement doesn't present a serious challenge to fossil capitalism and climate change; we won't be able to stop climate change unless activists "raise the stakes" through tactical use of violence.  

The examples of violence he uses are symbolic protest actions such as damage to private property (for example, letting the air out of SUV tires, and then leaving a note for the driver warning them that they have a flat tire, and why) and sabotage of oil pipelines (such as drilling holes in the pipes). The latter tactic is very similar to sitting on railroad tracks serving the munitions industry, or hammering in the heads of missiles. We've seen this before, and it is somewhat surprising that there isn't more of this going on in the contemporary environmental movement. 

Malm isn't talking about cyberattacks that temporarily or permanently damage polluting infrastructure, or targeted assassinations of corporate officers or board members of polluting industries, which is somewhat surprising as there is not much in his line of argument that would suggest that these kind of actions are not in line with radicalizing the movement in the way he suggests needs to happen.


Nick Estes' Our History Is The Future provides ample reason to carefully consider the ramifications of violent tactics for the environmental movement. Estes' book is partly a history of Dakota resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), partly a history of the Dakota people and their struggle against European settler colonialism, over several centuries, and partly a history of indigenous social movements for human rights, treaty recognition, and environmental justice. Because so many frontline struggles for environmental justice today are happening on sovereign native land, and because U.S. settler colonialism has repeatedly shown no respect for native lives and sovereignty, and a great propensity to use violence and terrorism against native people, the struggles that indigenous activists have led against DAPL, the contemporary Line 3 project in Minnesota, and others are decidedly focused on using non-violent tactics. 

Estes documents just how much force and violence police, paramilitaries, and the oil and construction industries have directed against native communities and activists. One can only imagine the repression that would occur if indigenous activists actually used Malm's methods in their environmental activism. This is something Malm's book fails to address in any way.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

#StayAtHome: Mao Zedong's "On Contradiction" Study Companion


Mao Zedong's "On Contradiction" is one of Mao's five really important philosophical essays. Originally presented in 1937 as a lecture at the Anti-Japanese Military and Political College in Yanan, "On Contradiction" explains how things change according to dialectical and historical materialism. 

I'm also reading Georg Lukacs' History and Class Consciousness at the moment, and while they are both texts about historical materialism, and both owe a debt to Hegel, Mao's "On Contradiction" is much more in the Engels tradition in that he sees dialectics as explanatory in the realm of nature and science, as well as for history and human society. Strictly speaking, Mao's essay is a work of dialectical and historical materialism, whereas Lukacs confines dialectics to historical processes only, by which me presumably means humans-in-nature as opposed to all nature.

The edition I read, Mao Zedong's "On Contradiction" Study Companion, published in 2019 by Foreign Languages Press (Paris) is just that: 84 pages of text, with the left hand page being Mao's original text, while the right hand page is commentary on the text prepared by the Redspark Collective. The text is followed by three pages of footnotes from the original essay. 

Redspark Collective's commentary is quite useful. It explains many of the early 20th Century historical events that had happened or were in the process of happening at the time the essay was written. Commentary also explains various philosophical currents in the ancient world, Europe, the USSR, and China that have influenced or are referenced in Mao's text. Finally some comments focus on more recent events, including the dogmatism of some followers of Shining Path outside Peru (for example, some Maoists outside Peru took up the Sendero policy of printing all brochures with red covers!), even pointing out that the revolution in Peru ended for all intents and purposes in 1990.

More apposite to contemporary concerns, the Redspark Collective commentary also points out where Mao got things wrong in light of factors like climate change and the persistence of antagonistic contradictions within socialist societies. I read the entire book yesterday, and will probably read it again once I finish Lukacs.  

Sunday, March 14, 2021

#StayAtHome: J. Sakai's "Learning from an Unimportant Minority"

 J. Sakai is a Japanese American radical who is best known for his book Settlers: the Mythology of the White Proletariat from Mayflower to Modern. This book, Learning from an Unimportant Minority: Race Politics Beyond the Black/White Paradigm (2015) is the transcript of a talk he gave as part of the Festival of Anarchy in Montreal in 2014. It's a small book, and short at 118 pages; I read it in a few hours last night.

The title is sarcastic. Sakai doesn't really think either Asians or Japanese Americans are an "unimportant minority", but that is how they are often treated within a paradigm that looks at race as primarily Black/White. He's interested in this problem not as an academic exercise in critiquing binaries or dualism, but based on his life experience. But the talk opens with the case of a white man in Chicago who attacked several Asian men while they were fishing by Lake Michigan. The white guy got a reduced sentence because his companions included a white woman and a black male, and because he belonged to an anti-racist skinhead group. That's the context for Sakai's immediate concern with Asians as an "unimportant minority."

In the talk he relates his family's experience after leaving a WW II concentration camp for Japanese Americans. They moved to Chicago, and he learned how to interact with white people ("the rules") around age 9 from African American kids of similar age. He observes the ways in which Japanese Americans in Chicago "bargained" with a white power structure, as well as about his own (and other Asian Americans') activism in solidarity with African Americans and American Indians.

One of the most exciting stories he tells is about an American Indian armed occupation of vacant housing in Chicago,

Sakai doesn't think that race antagonisms will go away when capitalism is put down. He points to conflicts between the Japanese American community and other racial groups, and to class differences within the Japanese American community, and suggests that "contradictions among the people" will persist for some time after a revolution.