Monday, July 4, 2022

Let's Read: MTDAA the RPG Part 3a

I only made it through pages 17-24 before I had a lot to talk about...

I like the flexibility inherent in how you can spend character points; you are not required to put any of them anywhere; you could end up with an ant that has low natural ability (lower attributes) but has worked hard to master several skills, or one who is more naturally gifted (higher attributes) who relies on that rather than deep study and training. Ultimately, it appears upon review that the game ultimately rewards a more balanced approach, since things get more expensive as they go, so getting a few cheap things is going to give you more bang for your buck than going all in on one attribute or trait. I like how it's set up.

The clout rules were something that I had revised and worked on for years, and I do like the way that they came together here; there is an 'economy' to purchasing gear, but it is entirely based on your level and your rank. It's game logical and world logical, and seems like a good solution even a decade later. I don't see an immediate way to improve this, although actual play may reveal some things as I go.

There are eight specialities, and they reflect a wide range of options. There are a few simple mechanics that clearly differentiate one specialty from another, but there's enough overlap that there are no must have specities for any team. The only specialty that I have questions about is communication - the description says that the specialty gives significant benefits in terms of team coordination, but I don't immediately see a mechanical benefit that reflects this. I will keep an eye out for this as I read. It might be later, but I'm not remembering it...

I really like the descriptors for each specialty. They are evocative, imply play style, and give a road map for how to build your character going forward. It's a good mix, and allows for considerable latitude considering that it's a military-themed game, so it's inherently narrower than a fantasy or supers game might be.

And the big one... let's talk pronouns.

I made a decision in the writing, and explained it in the text, that I'd be using male pronouns throughout, because the default setting is male ants, but playing a female insect is an option. As a secondary ELA teacher, I know how important it is for representation in literature and games. However, I stand by my decision, and I think it was the right one. Here are a few reasons... 
  1. That's the world of the comic. Of course, I created the comic too, so maybe that just is me justifying my mysoginistic worldview through past practice. I don't think so (partially because I wouldn't say that if I was doing it, most likely). 
  2. Another game if mine, Cupcake Scouts, requires you to play a ten-year-old girl. Because you are a Cupcake Scout. And they are all ten-year-old girls. I don't think it's an anti-female bias that pervades my work. I mean, that whole game is about being a girl. So, I mean, yeah.
  3. Here's the deep cut - the game and comic are ultimately and inextricably linked to my experiences in the Boy Scouts of America. There's no separating the two for me - the ants are a direct outgrowth of that experience. The Boy Scouts were instrumental in my development as a human being and as a male. I had to determine who I was as a person apart from females in order to be able to realize who I was, and who I ultimately was not. Trying to determine my own identity while also trying to impress girls was never going to work out for me; I cannot speak to anyone else's experience, but it was so important for me to be a boy in the company of men who were teaching me how to be a man. This game reflects that, and I feel no need to apologize for it. I think it's unfortunate that the Boy Scouts have become a universal organization for boys and girls - because I would have had a much harder time finding my identity in the organization as it is today. And that makes me a little sad.

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