Call for Submissions: AN RPG MODULE ANTHOLOGY

Nothing is more ubiquitous in Fantasy than the trusty mule we always leave with an NPC somewhere. PanopLit announces its first (of many, we hope) queer anthologies of RPG modules. The theme is Equus/Equidae, meaning we want all your gay centaurs, lost donkeys, and beautiful braided manes.

To ensure our authors have the most freedom and to protect the rights of contributors to the 5th Edition of Grunions & Rayguns, we’ve chosen to release our anthology using content provided by the Open Gaming License kindly put together by those lovely paragons of gaming,… we’ll call them Lizards of the Toast. Please understand that a lot of work went into 5th Edition, and those writers deserve their work being used in a way they contractually agreed to.

If you have questions about using the Open Gaming License, please see “Other Info” below.

The Details

Submissions are open to queer-identifying authors September 15th, 2018, through October 31st, 11:59 PM CST.

The nitty gritty:

Modules must be 2000-2500 words of adventure text, with 5 authors being accepted into this anthology. After being accepted, authors will go through a round of edits with the editor. $200 USD will be paid to each accepted author upon receipt of the completed work. Payment will be made via paypal or mailed check.

Email all pitches to info [at] Panoplit [dot] org. Subject line should read “Anthology Pitch: [Title or Working Title of your adventure]“. Please do not email completed adventures. The body of your pitch email should include:

  • An outline of the adventure.
  • Suggested level (or range of levels) for the adventure.
  • 500 words of sample text from any part of the adventure text.
  • 1 example NPC, unique Monster, or Item.
  • A brief bio (50-100 words) + your preferred pronouns.

Please keep in mind that the adventures need a thematic relationship to the required Equus theme, but interpret that freely. Not accepted:

  • Inclusion of any unapproved/trademarked content from the MM, PHB, or DMG.
  • Sexual content.
  • Extreme violence/abusive storylines.

Please use your best judgment for content. A little darkness is just fine, but let’s keep this fun!

Other Info

If you submit to this anthology, we will assume you identify as queer or part of a queer community (LGBTQIA+, Ace, NB, Aromantic). You do not need to define your queer. We trust you. If you’d like to cover this in your bio, feel free! But it is in no way required.

The Open Gaming License can be overwhelming at first. It’s a 400 page document. The important part is not to use any of the trademarked content listed in the first 2 pages of that license, and to stick to the rules and monsters available in the rest of the document. I suggest using ctrl + F to find something if you’re specifically interested in using it.

You CAN create your own monsters/NPCs/items and lots of other things, but they cannot be based on anything in the core rulebooks. You can only draw specific creature references used in those books from the Open Gaming License.

There will be a follow up post on other places to submit your adventure if you’re not accepted (or a cis/straight ally).

Please comment with any other questions!

 

Anthology Announcement: Get Ready!

Nothing is more ubiquitous in Fantasy than the trusty mule we always leave with an NPC somewhere. PanopLit announces its first (of many, we hope) queer anthologies of RPG modules. The theme is Equus/Equidae, meaning we want all your gay centaurs, lost donkeys, and beautiful braided manes.

Why are we so excited about ponies and donkeys? Because they’re great. But also because when we announced this anthology, this was one of the first responses:

To ensure our authors have the most freedom and to protect the rights of contributors to the 5th Edition of Grunions & Rayguns, we’ve chosen to release our anthology using content provided by the Open Gaming License kindly put together by those lovely paragons of gaming,… we’ll call them Lizards of the Toast. I’ll be putting together a how-to before the submission date, but in the mean time try reading this post on the subject, and understand that a lot of work went into 5th Edition, and those writers deserve their work being used in a way they contractually agreed to.

Submissions open September 15th, 2018, and will remain open through October 31st. If you send a pitch before this date, it will be sent to the glue farm.

The nitty gritty:

Official announcement of submissions opening will happen on September 15th. Modules will be 2000-2500 words of adventure text, with 5 authors being accepted into this anthology. $200 will be paid to each accepted author upon the completed work.

Your pitch should include:

  • An outline of the adventure.
  • Thematic relationship to the required Equus theme.
  • 500 words of sample text from any part of the adventure text.
  • 1 example NPC, unique Monster, or Item.
  • A brief bio (50-100 words) + your preferred pronouns.
  • Not include any unapproved/trademarked content from the MM, PHB, or DMG.

Not accepted:

  • Sexual content.
  • Extreme violence/abusive storylines.
  • Just… use your best judgement. Let’s keep this fun!

After getting our modules lined up, we’ll be announcing a fundraiser to hire artists and possibly come out with a print edition, so stay tuned for that!

Taking the Terror Out of Error: Roleplaying Games, Queer Existence, & the Beauty of Failure

I have wondered for a long time what it is about roleplaying games that feels inherently queer to me. Something about the format of collaborative storytelling has always struck me as being a particularly sharp and insightful mode for telling queer stories. I thought, at first, that it might have something to do with the necessity of community, of the radical “camaraderie and companionship” Foucault cites as being central to queer life,1 with the way that collaboration is intimately connected to communities who need each other to survive.

I recently realized that it’s something much more simple than this: Roleplaying games de-privilege and decentralize the significance and necessity of success. They do not punish us for failing.

The word game, when talking about roleplaying games in this way, feels at first somewhat deceptive: games, we have been taught, have winners and losers. They have goals and win-conditions and we are conditioned to want to win.

But roleplaying games — or, at least, the best of them — don’t feel like this. You don’t win a roleplaying game; when the dice don’t come up in your favor, bad things happen, but they move the story along. A bad dice roll does not mean you lose, it just means the story carries on in a different direction than you anticipated. It isn’t a loss, it’s an unexpected complication. At the end of a session, or the end of a campaign, or the end of a story, the players are not divided up into winners and losers. Roleplaying games are not designed to be won.

Or, and perhaps this distinction is important, they have different win-conditions than triumphing over the people at the table with you.

Usually, in a roleplaying game, the person setting the win-conditions is you or your party. You set personal goals, both mechanically and narratively: I want to get enough money to buy this cool item, I want to level my character up enough to get this power, I want my character absolved of their crimes, I want my character to get vengeance on the person who killed her family. I want my character to find a new family. I want my character to realize that their distrust of their party members is holding them back and learn to trust. I want my character to come up against and overcome their fatal flaw. I want to have a funny story to tell after the game is over.

Good game design knows what it wants its players to accomplish, and it rewards them for accomplishing those things. Whether it’s fighting and slaying monsters, like in Dungeons & Dragons, or something a little more nuanced, like strengthening character relationships (Apocalypse World’s Hx mechanics, Dungeon World’s bonds), or playing truthfully to your character’s flaws even when it gets you in trouble (The Sprawl’s Personal Directives, etc.), a good roleplaying game rewards you for pursuing what you want to pursue. And many of them reward you for failing.

What appeals to me about roleplaying games is that we are mechanically encouraged to fail. In fact, the rules (of the game, of the universe) require it: no one will succeed every time. And so, as players, we are permitted to make mistakes without worrying that those mistakes will cost us the game.

After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen in a roleplaying game? Your character dies, and you roll a new one, joining into the story again with a fresh perspective and a chance to explore new angles, new dynamics, and often — in the case of games with differing classes or playbooks — new mechanics to explore.

There is something appealing, something almost liberating, about a game that not only allows you to go with the flow, but forces you to; about a game which doesn’t give you full control and, thus, never expects unconditional success. By setting up failure as something that not only can happen, but will and must happen, roleplaying games free us from the burden of success, and the pressure that comes with it.

There is a book that I think about a lot, with regards to failure: Jack Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure, a whirlwind of a book which explores not only failure but everything from anti-capitalism in animated films to temporality in Dude Where’s My Car. In it, Halberstam vocalizes a celebration of failure, and what failure can offer us.

He writes:

“Failing is something queers do and have always done exceptionally well; for queers  failure can be a style, to cite Quentin Crisp, or a way of life, to cite Foucault, and it can stand in contrast to the grim scenarios of success that depend upon ‘trying and trying again.’ In fact if success requires so much effort, then maybe failure is easier in the long run and offers different rewards.”2

These “different rewards,” for Halberstam, are everything from alternative family structures to alternative concepts of labor production, new ways of relating to one another that can allow us to escape the oppressive institutions of heteropatriarchal capitalism.

These “different rewards,” for me, are the itch that roleplaying games scratch. Narrative complications, unexpected character development, tough decisions that illuminate things about our characters and stories we never would have imagined if we had just been allowed to succeed at every pass. They are the things that make our stories lifelike, and keep us coming back to the table week after week.

In Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life, Ahmed works to redefine the idea of happiness: it has become, she argues, an end goal which revolves around leading a life that is shaped to certain expectations, certain win-conditions which are set for us. Happiness, however, should not be an end goal, predetermined, but something else, something situational and not bound by artificially imposed limitations and expectations.

As she beautifully writes in her conclusion, “Killjoy Manifesto”:

“I stumble; maybe by stumbling I found you, maybe by stumbling I stumbled on happiness, a hap-full happiness; a happiness that is as fragile as the bodies we love and cherish.”3

This hap, this stumbling, is what roleplaying games at their best are all about. Happenstance and mishap, what delightful accidents can happen when we let go of the reins of narrative control and cede them over to a healthy mix of fate (dice, cards, etc) and trust (in the GM, in the other players, in the game itself and its designer, in the story we want to tell).

This hap, too, is what queer lives are about. None of us asked for this but still we make the most of it every day, embracing the small bits of luck we are granted. While others might see queerness as inherently unhappy — thanks to media which perpetuates the idea that the only outcomes to queer life are tragedy via early death or tragedy via personal loss — queer life is often centered around making the best out of bad situations, around building a life which accounts for mistakes, around redefining success.

It’s about rejecting the implicit win-conditions of life — settling down with a nice, heteronormative nuclear family — and setting our own win-conditions, whatever they may be.

As Joseph Litvak writes, “a lot of queer energy, later on, goes into . . . practices aimed at taking the terror out of error, at making the making of mistakes sexy, creative, even cognitively powerful. Doesn’t reading queer mean learning, among other things, that mistakes can be good rather than bad surprises?”4

Doesn’t playing queer mean learning these same things?

Playing roleplaying games, where our success at any action or decision is ultimately left up to chance — a roll of the dice or the drawing of a card, or the whims of another player — forces us to be open to not only the possibility of failure, but to be open to the good surprises that can come from the unexpected. It embraces the queer mode of failure and builds successful stories out of the inherent messiness of real life. It allows us to take our failures, whatever they may be — and, like in life, there will always be many — and find and embrace those different rewards.

Sources:

  1. Foucault, Michel. “Friendship as a Way of Life.” Foucault Live (Interviews, 1961-1984). Ed. Sylvère Lotringer. Trans. Lysa Hochroth and John Johnston. New York: Semiotext(e), 1996. 308-12.
  1. Halberstam, J. The Queer Art of Failure. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011.
  2. Ahmed, Sara. Living a Feminist Life. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017.
  3. Litvak, Joseph. Caught in the Act: Theatricality in the Nineteenth Century English Novel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. Qtd. in: Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

Christine Prevas is a writer, graduate student, perpetual GM, and host of the delightfully queer actual play podcast The Unexplored Places.

What Do I Write About?

Since launching our submissions, I’ve had more than one person approach me to say “I love this, but what do I write about?” I tried my best to explain that I want to see lists and resources and personal essays and critiques, but maybe there is another way. To explain, I’ll write about myself.

I began playing Dungeons & Dragons with my mother and my brothers. After that we played Alternity until the game “lost the battle” (my mother’s words) to the Star Wars RPG. I remember listening to the CD introduction that came with 3rd Edition as a family and a 10 person game at my father’s where we all died and my wolf survived us, dragging our bodies out of the cave and to an Elven temple.

One of the scariest things I’ve ever done was entering the GenCon costume contest in 1999. I won for the youth category. I think there were 3 of us. I passed out on the convention center floor while we played a board game past 10 PM. I was 9 years old.

In middle or high school my brothers and I discovered Call of Cthulhu, which changed our lives forever. Kenneth Hite answered a historical question I asked on Twitter so that I could finish my then-stalled (now published) novel, and I am unreasonably grateful.

My first game outside my family happened when I went away to college. It began with the DM describing a Player Character crawling out of a vagina he had cast onto a wall, and ended when another player (a girl) told me I “just wasn’t very good at role playing.” After that, I launched Babes in Armor and started a Twitter account. It’s been nearly a decade.

In college, some Very Bad things happened to me. More than once. I failed out and moved back in with my mother in Milwaukee. While struggling to find some direction, I interned at two non profits focusing on rights for women in the workplace and nervously pitched to FemPop. I wrote a regular (always late) television recap for them and reviewed games and went to C2E2.

I returned to school a year after dropping out of college. Eventually I took a class where we created a world together and played in it as a Creative Writing project. We used the World of Darkness rules, and I excitedly went to an RPG talk that featured creators who worked on all sorts of games and only Will Hindmarch gave me his card.

I wrote a truly terrible application to Monica Valentinelli for the Conan RPG (I had and continue to have no games writing experience), and she turned it down in an unbelievably gracious way. Uncanny later published her essay, “We Have Always Been Here, Motherfucker” and it changed my life, again.

At some point I wrote, terribly, about my negative experiences at a local game convention for FemHype and it helped heal me a little to have a space to talk, and I will never get over the generosity I’ve received from outlets on the internet. There are so many bad experiences I’ve had gaming (like the comic book shop owner who played CoC with us after hours and called me “whore” for an entire session, in character). There are also so many good. The last time I played with my older brother was at a demo game for Matt Forbeck’s Shotguns and Sorcery, and it is still one of my favorite gaming memories.

There are things I have questions about. Did other people discover their sexuality way too young on text-based RPG forums? Was it just as uncomfortable? What resources changed the game for you? What RPG made you realize there was more to roleplaying than D&D?

In the end, I could write and write about myself, but I would rather read about you.

Submissions are Open!

Who We Publish

PanopLit is seeking nonbinary, bigendered, femme, queer, and women writers with experience playing tabletop roleplaying games. If you fit within the LGBTQA+ spectrum, or have a unique viewpoint on RPG culture or games, we want to hear from you!

What We Publish

Our vision for PanopLit is one that includes tabletop gamers who are often excluded from larger conversations about RPGs and tabletop history. We want current resources to make your games easier, more fun, and more diverse, and we want your stories, critiques, and suggestions to make tabletop culture more inclusive.

Reviews, Tips, and Lists

PanopLit publishes short articles (300-500 words) in list or heading format. These should be focused on current resources, innovative tips, and items of interest for Game Masters and Players.

Essays

A long term goal for PanopLit is preserving stories from gamers who may not have been recorded in previous RPG histories. We want critiques and essays on your experiences as a gamer and mechanics in games. The minimum word count for essays in 500 words.

If you have been gaming for longer than 10 years, please contact us for an interview.

How to Submit

Email info@panoplit.org with “Submission:” before the title of your article or essay in the subject line.

In the body of your email include your pronouns (and/or how you identify), any social media or website links you would like included if you are published, and a one sentence bio about yourself. Attach your article to the email in .rtf or .doc format.

Press Release and Promotional Articles

We will publish press releases and promotional articles you write about your game, artwork, or other RPG related content that you create and sell, but will not pay a writer’s fee for this content. A link to this type of content will also be put out on the PanopLit Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts.

Payment

PanopLit pays $20 for lists of RPG resources, reviews, and articles that range from 300-500 words. Essays or critiques over 500 words that are chosen to be published will receive $30. This can be paid out via Paypal or check.

Advertise with Us!

Advertising opportunities are available in the form of ads on the website, featured articles, and posts on the PanopLit social media network. Email info@panoplit.org to tell us about your project and get rates.

New Things Coming for PanopLit

In an effort to elevate as many voices in the RPG community as possible, PanopLit will begin accepting submissions (paid!) for short form essays (around 500 words), lists, and reviews. I will also be accepting write ups by creators of their adventures, games, or other RPG-centered products.

As part of this effort, the website will be undergoing a face lift. Please bear with us while we redesign and get ready to accept submissions! Submissions will open February 1st, and remain open unless we are overrun with articles.

PanopLit is currently paid out of pocket, so advertising options and donation pages will appear soon, as well, to support our content creators.

Looking forward to reading your work soon!

Free Rules Systems to Build Your Next World Around

RPG Worldbuilding is enough work without hammering out every mechanic. Use these free systems to kickstart your next universe, without the number’s game.

Open Legend is a stripped down rules system with a focus on collaborative story telling. This makes it ideal for those that want their RPG universe to flow with mythology and lore more than physics and condition tables. What is truly outstanding for this system are the level of development that has gone into its tools.

Let’s start with the basics: in order to interact with the gaming world, you need character! Open Legend Character Builder gets you rolling with an interactive character sheet plus tutorial. It’s also a great guide for anyone looking to design their own sheets in the future.

For those who would rather look to the stars, Stars Without Number offers endless possibilities for worlds and encounters. The rules PDF is available free. Set centuries after communication between planets has been cut off, Stars offers the possibility to build and expand a world all its own before introducing it to another one as technology pushes toward the galactic scale again.

Fate is a system designed to mold to whatever genre you want to explore. It’s lighter on dice interaction, heavier on narrative, and ideal for mishmashing genres until you get the characters you’ve always wanted to know. While Fate has plenty of base rules systems to offer, it’s best suited for intimate interactions between characters and spaces than epic architectures or Tolkienesque wars.

This was just the most timid of toe touches into RPG worldbuilding. We’re looking forward to bringing more resources for you to shape your settings into exactly what you imagined, not to mention tips on how to run them.