Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Court Rules that Dungeons and Dragons Threatens Prison Security

Okay, this is about the stupidest thing I've heard in a couple of months. A DM is somehow the equivalent of a gang leader? This is insane.
If you're an orc or a wizard, you'd better keep your nose clean.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit weighed in Wednesday on a matter of grievous import to the nation's prisons: Dungeons & Dragons. And the Court's ruling was bad news for naughty nerds nationwide, concluding that the innocent-seeming board game was inviting trouble.

The case brought before the Appeals Court argued that D&D inhibited prison security, because "cooperative games can mimic the organization of gangs and lead to the actual development thereof." And therefore Kevin T. Singer, a long-time dungeon-explorer sentenced to life in prison in 2002 for bludgeoning and stabbing his sister’s boyfriend, was denied access to his magical staffs and pieces of gold.

According to the published ruling, Captain Bruce Muraski, who serves as disruptive group coordinator for the Waupun Correctional Institute in Wisconsin, 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."

In other words, the case didn't hang on whether the dice were loaded or the game's books were cooked or seditious. It argued that limiting the use of board games would deter gang activity. The argument had more nuances than a 12-sided die; for all the legal details, check the Geeks Are Sexy blog.

It's a blow to role-players everywhere -- criminal role-players that is. Law-abiding citizens are safe. So heed this warning and rob no more, or you'll find you've slain your last halfling.
Go to the Geeks Are Sexy blog entry for the whole skinny on this. But this is just such an ignorant ruling as to boggle the mind.

Travel Broadens the Mind

It's been too long since I did a Greyhawk-centric post, and I thought I would cover a topic not often seen in Greyhawkiana (or most other fantasy settings, as far as I'm aware). It's all well and good to know where the magical fountains of X are, or the prophecy-uttering statue of Y, but I think it's just as important (and arguably more realistic, depending on the level of magic in one's campaign) to know a little something about the more mundane features that might draw travelers.

I posted on something tangentially related to this over a year ago, when I suggested that visiting different sites and viewing the sights in the Flanaess might earn experience points. Farther back, I outlined what I considered to be some of the more significant religious locales therein. While both of those can certainly be applied here (getting experience points for seeing or experiencing some of the wonders contained herein) I just thought it was a neat idea.

Again, I am taken with the idea of "The Grand Tour" which was undertaken by young English gentlemen (and later by such of other nationalities as well), where the centers of civilization in Europe were visited, often under the guidance of someone experienced in such matters, who acted not only as guide but tutor as well. One would view the various art galleries of the famous museums, visit the sites of battles mentioned in Livy, and learn fencing from masters in exotic locales such as Paris. I find the concept interesting, and humbly present for you just a few examples from the World of Greyhawk...
  • Innspa has famous hot springs and baths, some with purported healing properties. Over the years, the entire economy has taken to revolving around the springs and their associated inns and spas. It is a vacation spot for the well-heeled of the entire north-eastern Flanaess.
  • Rauxes has, in addition to its fabulous and famous Oeridian architecture, exemplified by its soaring cathedrals and palaces, its famous Night Gardens, filled with plants that bloom only at night.
  • Rel Mord is noted for two separate museums; the Brick Palace, noted for its collection of Oeridian full-body friezes; and the Royal Museum, which features the largest collection of paintings east of the Nyr Dyv.
  • Rel Mord's Royal Library is also one of the finest in the Flanaess, hosting over fifty thousand volumes.
  • Rel Astra is home to a queer form of fighting which uses only short sticks, which, with training, can be used to disarm and even cripple opponents. The fighting masters of this art can be persuaded to teach students, for a price.
  • Eastfair features a fabulous market fair every spring, said to attract merchants from all over North Province and the entire Thillronian Penninsula.
  • Radigast City has scores of brilliant mosaics set into the streets at odd intervals, depicting various scenes from mythology and history, originally designed by the famed artist Joru Thillpot, and maintained at the city's expense. 
  • Rookroost has a museum that boasts the largest collection of coins and other instruments of currency in the Flanaess.
  • Molag has a Museum of Torture, in which, it is rumored, live demonstrations of the exhibits are a regular occurrence.
  • Chendl is famed for its sculpture gardens, including masterpieces by Yvin Patro, Jerrold Chargas, and Rogar.
  • Schwartzenbruin is noted for its singular style of music, which is rarely performed outside of Perrenland, and which is seen as a great tourist attraction. It is a type of vocal performance done a capella, based on the cattle calls of the herdsmen in the hills and mountains called "jodeln."
  • Gryrax has a pair of enormous statues flanking the entrance to its harbor; "Vigilance" and "Liberty."
  • The entire town of Westkeep is built entirely on stilts, with platforms surrounding each building connected by elaborate bridges, because of the intruding marshlands of the Hool Marshes.
  • Veluna City boast the tallest tower in the entire Flanaess, graced with sculptures of angels and devas that wind around the outside into the clouds. It is currently used as the city mint.
  • Niole Dra is a center of sculpture, with no fewer than three distinct "schools" of sculpture being represented. Proponents of each constantly strive to outdo the others, with the backing of important patrons from amongst the aristocracy of Keoland.
  • In the central square of Loftwick there is an enormous meteor the size of a small house. It is said to have mystical properties, but this is a local superstition unsupported by magical investigation.
  • Enstad is famed for its public gardens, which are specifically designed so that the scents vary with the passing of each hour, as different flower species' pollen alights on the air and mixes with the others.
  • Gradsul has, according to the whims of fashion, become the center of a new style of dress that entails wide ruffs at the neck. To have such a ruff made in Gryrax itself is counted as a coup among the fashion mavens of the south-central Flanaess.
  • Mentrey is home to the three most acclaimed painters of the age. Portraits by them hang in capitals across the Flanaess. Works by their apprentices go for astronomical sums; works by the masters themselves are literally priceless. This has made Mentrey something of a hub among the artistic world of the eastern Flanaess.
  • Both Cryllor and Flen are centers of nature walks through the Good Hills. The natural beauty of the trails and paths, combined with the very safe environs, make for excellent hiking.

Games Workshop Earnings Down

One of the really nice things (were I of a more cynical turn of mind, I might be tempted to say the only nice thing) about Games Workshop is that they make public their earnings statements. I believe that's because they're publicly traded, but I couldn't swear to it. Perhaps one of my players will be able to answer that question.

Anyway, ICv2 has a very nice article up on the recent GW earnings statement and other related news relating to the company. Apparently their sales were down 4% from last year, due mostly in reductions from their company-owned stores. I've never been inside one, so I can't tell you from personal experience what they're like, but this was telling:

While overall sales declined in North America and Northern Europe, sales through independent retailers in those territories actually grew.

They changed their staffing in their stores, apparently, making at least some of them single-man operations in order to cut costs. Yikes! You're stuck in the store all day by yourself, unable to so much as go to the bathroom without locking the front door, and heaven help your weekly sales figures if you have to take a sick day or stay home for the plumber to fix a pipe.

I've worked in a retail games store myself (The Compleat Strategist in Boston), and I can't even imagine what running that as a one-man-show would be like. It seems like GW is being penny-wise and pound-foolish, and those sales figures are bearing it out. There are other factors at work, of course, and you can only really discern trends in the long-term, but from a common sense perspective this turn does make a certain amount of sense.

Of course, they could save money by making true 25mm figures instead of 28mm (or even larger!), but I digress.