Category Archives: Rant

The Dark Side (of Fandom)

So… how’ve you been?

I’ve been good. Life continues. Work. Family. Gaming.

So here’s the thing. I’ve been sitting and mulling on something for a bit, not sure how to approach the topic, given my position in the online RedBrick/Earthdawn community. So let me preface this by saying I really don’t have any insider knowledge in this particular situation, and everything I say here is purely my opinion and in no way reflects on the opinions or positions held by anybody else, anywhere, at any time past, present, or future.

A couple weeks ago, Angus McNicholl uploaded this post to his blog, announcing that he had been removed as primary author on Fading Suns Third Editon — with (apparently) no warning or reason given. The new edition had been in development for some time, and according to earlier announcements from RedBrick, was slated for release later this year.

Things got a little heated online in the wake of this, with a thread on RPGnet  reaching nearly 500 posts, and a couple of threads on the RedBrick forums. Since the news broke, the RB forums have been closed down, with only the admin-only ‘news’ posts available but nothing else.

Again, I want to stress that I don’t know what was/is going on. I was not involved with Fading Suns in any way, and only have a passing acquaintance with Angus. I have known James Sutton (head of RedBrick) for quite a number of years, but I haven’t really spoken with him at all since the announcement. I have no insight into what is going on — I’m as in the dark as anybody else.

I can certainly understand where many of the folks who have commented on this are coming from. All that is out there is Angus’s post, and — effectively — silence from RedBrick. The shutdown of the forums, facebook page, and the like in the past weeks certainly give the appearance of a company that is not interested in addressing the concerns of fans and followers. From the position of somebody outside looking in… it doesn’t look good.

But in all honesty… what is RedBrick going to say? What could they say? This is an internal company matter, and James is under no obligation to anybody to explain the reasons for his decisions. It is his company, and (to shamelessly steal a paraphrase from the much more erudite blog post by Neil Gaiman) he is not your bitch. This matter is between James and Angus, and that is all.

I’m not going to get into a discussion over who has or has not behaved well. That’s not really what I’ve been turning over in my mind the last couple weeks.

What bothers me most about this whole thing is the sense of entitlement that I feel coming off some of the internet commenters — the feeling that they, by virtue of being fans, must be told what is going on. In my opinion, the only thing the fans are entitled to be told is the change. Anything beyond that….


Don’t get me wrong, I like knowing as much as the next guy.

But it isn’t any of my business.

And… this may make me sound like some get-off-my-lawn, uphill-both-ways-in-the-snow fogey… but this idea in the internet age that everything needs to be made public, and is subject to some kind of faux-democratic court of public opinion? A market-based referendum on somebody’s character rather than their creation?

Fuck it.

There are lines. Some content creators are more open to their fans and the public — but that doesn’t mean that all creators need to toe the same lines. We — as fans — are entitled to exactly as much information as they choose to give us. We aren’t part of their lives, and while it is great to be engaged by a creator, and feel a kind of  shared ownership in their creations because of the fan community around it, they produce a product, and we decide whether to consume it. There are lots of reasons to do so, and certainly the public character of the creator can play a part.

But… really… this whole thing? Grumps me right the hell up.

Legend Points are not real!

One of my pet peeves when it comes to the Earthdawn system is the idea that Legend Points (Earthdawn’s equivalent of Experience Points) are real within the context of the game setting. This is, I believe, largely the result of so many other abstract concepts from other RPGs (like levels, classes, and so forth) given in-game reality (Circles, Disciplines, etc), as well as a system called “Legendary Status” that uses a character’s Legend Point total as a measure of how famous (or infamous) they are.

Here is an example from RPGnet:

And all of this ties (sorry for the pun) directly to how fame and XP are interconnected. A famous weapon (like Nioku’s Bow) is powerful because it’s famous. And it’s famous because Nioku was famous, and did legendary things with her bow. You tieing your personal pattern (via threads) to the pattern of a famous weapon make both of you more potent via the fact that both of you have fame. As you make legends with an item both you and it become more potent.

Don’t get me wrong, one of my favorite things about Earthdawn is how it gives in-game reasons for a lot of the common fantasy RPG tropes. But the idea that a character’s power is the result of his fame is putting the cart before the horse.

If you think about the idea of Legend Points as an in-game thing, it leads to some interesting (and problematic) places. If you can earn ‘experience’ by telling stories, does that mean an individual can become a great swordsman by telling stories about being a great swordsman?  If an adept kills a horror in the forest, and he doesn’t tell anybody, does he earn the Legend Points? Neither of these really make any sense.

Take a look at the Awarding Legend Points section of the Earthdawn Gamemaster’s Guide (it starts on page 97). There are several elements that result in Legend Awards for characters:

  • Completing goals (session and adventure)
  • Conflicts
  • Gathering Magical Treasure
  • Individual Deeds
  • Roleplaying

In other words, a character earns a Legend Award for doing stuff. Telling tales (aka ‘building your legend’) certainly qualifies as doing something, but it doesn’t have its own category (depending on your play style, it could be counted as either an individual deed or roleplaying).

Legend Points are a character advancement mechanic. They are a way to model a character’s experience, placing that in a mechanical framework. They are not “real” in the setting of Earthdawn. A character may talk about their ‘legend’ but there is no in-game quantification of this — unlike “Third Circle” or “Warrior Discipline” which do have an in-game reality.

If an adept kills a horror in the forest, he has an experience that teaches him something that allows him to advance in the practice of his Discipline. It doesn’t matter if he tells anybody or not he still has the experience and would, in game mechanical terms, earn Legend Points.

Legend has a thematic importance to Earthdawn because of the post-apocalyptic nature of the setting, highlighting the importance of discovering that which was lost, it is a real thing — the history and oral traditions of the setting. Legend Points are not a quantifiable thing to the people of Barsaive, and these two things should not be conflated.

Nioku’s bow is famous because it has a lot of magical power. It doesn’t have a lot of magical power because it is famous. The last line in the post I quoted is true — as you make legends with an item both you and the item become more potent but that power is because you are doing things and those things you have done lead to legends.