The Bodhana Group

The Bodhana Group exists, and the world is better for it. If you have not heard of them, then you’re about to have that enviable experience of learning about them for the first time.

I first learned of The Bodhana Group when executive director Jack Berkenstock was interviewed by the folks at Saving the Game. Jack is great at talking about his passion, and I’ll just link a video below of him doing just that.

(Oh yeah, they also run an annual local gaming convention called Save Against Fear as a fundraiser.)

The Bodhana Group uses tabletop games therapeutically, in particular with children, including children who are victims and perpetrators of sexual violence. So they use something I treasure, gaming, to help some of the most vulnerable children as well as people who our society so often abandons. In a country where convicted sex offenders live beneath bridges in Florida, The Bodhana Group works to heal through the power of games.

Not long ago I was made inordinately proud to become a member of the Board of The Bodhana Group. I don’t think of myself as much of a joiner, and it’s still weird to do something like be on a Board of anything. But I’m happy to be part of The Bodhana Group, to help them however I can.

One thing I’m going to help them with is a book they are putting together about therapeutic gaming. I got to go through a copy for an editing pass, and in a group as small as Bodhana I might actually be the most experienced writer and editor. The other project I want to help with is a board game they are designing. It’s been a while since I was in on a game design project, at least one that is headed to publication, so I’m excited about that opportunity.

In the meantime, it seems like Bodhana is in the midst of some rapid and exciting growth. They just relocated to a new HQ, which is pretty cool, and have been contracted by more than one organization to run therapeutic games. They recently had a training day for volunteers, and of course we’re all looking forward to Save Against Fear, featuring Bodhana’s first celebrity guest, Martin Klebba.

Back to the beginning, though, when I first heard about the existence of The Bodhana Group – I felt better about the world. I felt like it was a place with more good in it than I’d previously realized. It came at a time in my life that was very hard, when I really needed some good news. The Bodhana Group is good news. I’m so glad to be a part of it.

V20: Vampire the Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition

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Not too long ago, White Wolf announced that they would be releasing a 20th Anniversary Edition of Vampire the Masquerade.  20 years ago, VtM’s huge impact on the gaming industry and overall geek culture began.  In terms of system mechanics, Vampire was a hymn to Shadowrun and others before it, but there was some kind of sweet spot that was waiting for something like Vampire the Masquerade to strike home.
According to demographic research done for Wizards of the Coast, Vampire is responsible for bringing in a huge number of women into the gaming hobby, what was up to that point apparently the purview of war-gaming grognards…or something.  I didn’t start gaming until around 1991, and I started with Mythus and then GURPS, but one can imagine what a hobby with even fewer women would have been like.
From their official comments, it would appear that V20, as they are calling the anniversary edition, would only be available to those who are attending the Grand Masquerade in New Orleans this year.  Fortunately, I am pretty sure this is not true.  I asked the question via Twitter, using their preferred hashtag #v20, and got a quick response that the book (which is going to be around 400 pages) is going to be available apart from the Masquerade – they just aren’t sure about the details yet.
I like how White Wolf is going about this process.  They are actively soliciting and responding on a forum devoted to the topic of the new edition, and they are also posting drafts of the rules and text that will go into the final book.  The book is going to have new, full-color artwork from ‘classic’ Masquerade artists, and will not be a new edition, nor will it be the beginning of a new round of book releases for Masquerade.  They are saying that it is simply something for those who have been playing Vampire since it was released 20 years ago.
That’s what they’re saying now anyway.  As always, we’ll see.
I’ve been following the hashtag #v20 on Twitter, and that is where I am getting most of my information and updates, apart from the documents they release and the forums, where I am participating as time allows.
I can honestly say that this announcement has re-ignited my desire to play Vampire the Masquerade.  I started in 1998, my first year of college, and I played in games for the next 7 or 8 years with the same group of great people who are still some of my closest friends.  Before I played VtM, I was actually kind of contemptuous of a game that seemed to be all about being goth and bemoaning one’s fate and blood fetishism.  And yeah, there’s some of that.  What I got was a fantastic game and great memories and friends.  I’m not really a fan of vampire fiction or movies; I’ve never been even remotely goth; but VtM is still one of my favorite games out there.  I’m really excited about the new edition, and will definitely get myself a copy when it is available.
In the meantime, for any other fans, I recommend checking out the open development documents and blog, the forums, and also following the news as it comes out.  You ask questions and much of the time, one of the guys working on the book answer you.  That’s one thing I really like about our little hobby – the people at the very top are not so high up as to not be accessible to even casual fans.
Updates:

The Lumpley Games PDF Library

Ever wanted to main-line awesome directly into your veins?

It’s never been this accessible before.

$25 for PDFs of Apocalypse World, Dogs in the Vineyard, kill puppies for satan, In a Wicked Age, Mechaton, and Poison’d.  That’s…$4.17 per game.

Stop what you are doing and buy Vincent Baker’s games.

OMFG WUT?

The 7th Circuit Court upheld a prison rule banning D&D today. That’s right. In at least one Wisconsin prison it is forbidden to play D&D.

Why? Because it supposedly leads to gang behavior and might encourage escapism. The catch is that there is absolutely no evidence that it leads to gang behavior in this prison or in any other prison, or anywhere in the world. The judgment is based on the lowest level of justification possible which is that the rule be “rationally related” to a legitimate goal of prison administration. Basically all the prison warden had to do was give a reason, any reason, whether that reason was remotely connected to, you know, reality doesn’t matter.

The best thing is that the second reason “it encourages escapism” directly contradicts the first. So basically these prisoners are simultaneously getting more organized and aggressive while also retreating into an intellectual cocoon. Makes a lot of sense. Don’t novels and movies also encourage escapism? Doesn’t being locked in a cell with four gray walls day and night for months on end encourage escapism?

The ONLY evidence the prison officials submitted for their rationale on the gang connection was the affidavit of a Captain Muraski:

Muraski explained that the policy was intended to promote prison security because cooperative games can mimic the organization of gangs and lead to the actual development thereof. Muraski elaborated that during D&D games, one player is denoted the “Dungeon Master.” The Dungeon Master is tasked with giving directions to other players, which Muraski testified mimics the organization of a gang.

This is just so asinine that I am actually foaming at the mouth. My computer screen has given me rabies.

This whole thing makes me want to go found a prison ministry in Wisconsin where we teach inmates to play GURPS, World of Darkness, Burning Wheel, Spirit of the Century, Call of Cthulhu and so on forcing them to ban each one in succession. And THEN I will teach the inmates to play a completely diceless improvisational RPG they don’t need books or materials for and watch the prison officials eyes pop out of their skulls in frustration.

Game Addiction Therapists Treated For Addiction to Gaming

This is the real headline: “Therapists Join World of Warcraft to Treat ‘Addicted’ Players.”

The story is that a group of therapists are asking Blizzard for free access to WoW to search for and identify people addicted to the game. This is because, they say, that true addicts are hard to reach by other means since they are always in their rooms.

While it is no doubt, well intentioned, I couldn’t help but see this as a situation ripe for parody. It will probably start well, but 6 months down the line this is what I predict:

Therapist: Die! crazy cat lady die!

Assistant: Dr. we’ve received an email from another concerned parent…

Therapist: Shhh!!

Assistant: Yes but…

Therapist: Shhh!!! I told you not to bother me when I’m raidin… fuck. Another wipe.

Assistant: I know, but I thought you might be interested, this seems like a serious case.

Therapist: Do you know how many times we’ve tried this fight? She’s one sadistic little…

Assistant: The kid’s name is Ryan. His character on your server is a Tauren Druid named Wowzalot. His mom says he has been playing about 17 or 18 hours a day lately.

Therapist: Fine. Fine. Make up a file and put it on my desk. I’ll go over it after… did you say a Druid? What spec? We could really use a tree in our raid!

Assistant: I don’t think that’s what his mom had in mind when she asked us to help intervene.

Therapist: Yeah, probably not. Oh well. Listen we’ll have to talk about this later, the group is reforming, gotta buff up.

Assistant: Sir…

Therapist: What!?! I told you we’re about to start again!

Assistant: Don’t you think you’ve been playing a little bit too much lately…

Therapist: Don’t start that again! I pay you to answer phones, not to be my personal nag.

Assistant: Okay…

Therapist: Here we go! Bitch is goin’ down this time! Ayaaaaaaaghghhh….