A couple of weeks back @DungeonMasterSc tweeted a question about the minimum number of players dungeon masters need not to cancel a Dungeons & Dragons session. My response was ‘two’, and I added that I’d normally give them a non-player character to help them out.
I was challenged by @spaceseeker19’s response, so tonight when I just had one player, we played anyway. I’d been preparing the first few adventures from In Volo’s Wake, which features monsters from Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and there were a few opportunities to support our one player character (a dulcimer-playing human bard) with some NPCs. She was able to do okay on her own in the first adventure, but in the second adventure she really depended on some connections she’d made with non-player characters to save some dwarf children from gnolls. While the game lacked the inter-player dynamics, it was still worth doing, and the main non-player character (Eric the ‘hobby-adventurer’) proved fairly entertaining.
I’ve only really watched one of Chris Lilley’s shows, and it happened to be 2011’s Angry Boys. When I watched it, I felt a bit awkward about European-Australian comic Lilley portraying Japanese and African-American characters. I wondered how much Aboriginal people may have had a say in how their characters were portrayed. (During the show one of the Aboriginal actors ended up visiting our house because he had a cousin staying with us.) At the time I don’t remember hearing anyone asking these questions, and I appreciated that through the show Lilley seemed to be getting people to consider what might be going on behind what seemed to be a crisis of masculinity in our global society.
More recently, however, Lilley’s 2014 show Jonah from Tonga received a clear critique from Australia’s Tongan community. The problem was that ‘Jonah’ – a European man impersonating a stereotype of Tongan youth – had become the most recognisable public face of the Tongan community in Australia. It seems quite unfair for a member of the European majority to have power over how a relatively small cultural group is portrayed in the media. More recently the same show was axed by Māori Television in Aotearoa/New Zealand, by request from the Tongan community. It would be hard to imagine that Chris Lilley is still unaware that people feel he’s being racist by pretending to be a person of colour.
Last weekend Lilley was back in the public arena for the wrong reason. Just after a major protest related to the death of Elijah Doughty, Lilley tweeted a video clip from Angry Boys which seemed to be referring to Doughty’s death. Elijah Doughty was an Aboriginal boy who was run over by a European man in Kalgoorlie. It appears that the driver intended to run Doughty over, but he has been cleared of murder and manslaughter. In this context Lilley’s song ‘Squashed N***a’, about a black kid being run over, seemed like a pretty clear and dispicable reference to Doughty’s death. In response to the outcry about the video, Lilley deleted the tweet, then deleted his account. Later on he restored his account and posted an apology saying that he hadn’t meant to be racist.
I’ve dsaid this before, but we need to remember that we can’t be the only judges of whether we’ve been racist. If someone from another racial or cultural group suggests that we’ve been racist, we need to listen whether or not we’ve intended to be racist. If our words or behaviour are having a harmful impact on other cultural or racial groups we need to listen to that and change our behaviour. If Chris Lilley returns to television, I’ll be interested to see what he does. But Lilley’s disaster doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook. We need to be ready to listen when someone suggests that we’ve been racist.
I should know this! I’ve spent enough time recovering from overwork, including a month in hospital a few years ago. Old habits die hard. I’ve had a headache for over a month, which is because a month ago I had one week that was way too busy. Well, actually, the headache it is getting better. It isn’t all day now, but for the first four weeks it was constant. I haven’t been posting here as regularly as I’d like but I’m expecting that’s probably how it’ll need to be at least this month!
For players or DMs:
- ‘6 Will-o’-Wisps with Personality’ Raging Swan Press – this is pretty self-explanatory. The article also includes a location for the will-o’-wisps to haunt.
- ‘Cave Halflings’ d-Infinity – stats for cave halflings, based on fossils found in Ethiopia
- ‘Ankheg: Dead From Below’ Backflip Dungeon – this post suggests how you can make the most of Ankhegs. It includes some variant stats and a map for a colony.
- ‘Fish Bowl’ Nerdarchy – here’s a clever way to use a monster as a trap
- ‘Bad Curses are Good Curses’ The Mage College – this article demonstrates how ‘curses’ like lycanthropy and vampirism have come to be seen as cool superpowers instead, and how we can turn them back into curses
- ‘What’s on the Menu?‘ Nerdolopedia – this article suggests what we should consider when deciding what’s on the menu in particular areas
- ‘Worldbuilding for One Shots’ World Builder Blog – this article suggests three things to prioritise to flesh out your world, when you know you’re only going to have one session to showcase it
- ‘Metaphysics: Laws and Characteristics of the Multiverse’ World of Farland – this article presents an alternative D&D cosmology, with a plane for each alignment.
For anyone wanting to reflect more deeply on game themes:
Content I’ve published recently:
In March 2015 I started working as a freelancer. Today I sent off my 50th invoice. I felt like it was important to mark the occassion. At the beginning of 2015 when I started winding back my regular work I felt pretty nervous. Resigning entirely at the end of that year was fairly risky. While it is often much less certain, I really like knowing that I’m doing the work that I should be and knowing that I can find my own work. Thankyou to everyone I’ve been able to work with during that time!