natural framework

In a recent thread, the question of whether tabletop gaming systems that “focus more on story” are friendlier to beginners. I’m going to spin off a separate post because - as always - I have Opinions on that.

My first reaction is that I don’t think the question makes sense. All tabletop RPGs “focus on story” - they just do it in different ways, because the word “story” can mean more than one thing.

There’s “story” as in “a planned narrative with scenes and acts and character arcs and Something To Say about life, the universe and everything”.

However, there’s also “story” as in “a retrospectively constructed explanatory narrative for a bunch of stuff that happened”.

Or, in plain English, there’s the kind of story where you decide what kind of story you want to tell, then invent the specific people and events that will allow you to tell it; and there’s the kind of story where you start with the people and events already defined for you, then invent a narrative to organise and explain what the heck just happened.

Even the most “gamified” tabletop systems are story-focused in the sense that they produce stories. Some of the most engaging anecdotes from the tabletop come from the dice deciding to do something bizarre, or from some subtle interaction between various layers of the rules kicking out an unexpected result, and rather than fudging or ignoring it, the players at the table ran with it and made a story where that was the only thing that could have happened.

Now, some systems may produce stories badly - i.e., the events they generate are too predictable, too repetitive, or too frustratingly paced to easily make into good stories, or they demand too much work from the players for the value of their output - but that’s a flaw of individual implementations. The idea that complex or rules-heavy systems are bad at story focus in principle is nonsense.

Of course, that’s a tangent, because that’s not what the question really means.

To the extent that “not being story focused” is erroneously equated with “having many or complex rules” - there’s that old role-playing versus roll-playing fallacy again - what it really means is “are systems that demand less engagement with the rules categorically friendlier to beginners?”.

I wouldn’t agree that they are.

To pose a simple example, if we assume for the sake of argument that less mechanical engagement = more beginner friendly, then freeform RP, which demands no mechanical engagement whatsoever, must obviously be the most beginner-friendly game of all - yet it’s my experience that freeform RP in a group setting can be extremely challenging for beginners, often to the extent that they’re unable to participate at all, in spite of their best efforts.

Detractors of rules-heavy games will often characterise game rules as serving to limit player creativity, but any student of improvisational storytelling can tell you that limitations are good for creativity, at least up to a point. Tell a person they can do anything and they’ll flounder - but give them a couple of specific options to pick from and off they go. “Rules impose creative restrictions” is merely the evil twin of “rules provide creative frameworks”.

Naturally there’s a balance to be struck; hand someone a two hundred page rulebook as their first introduction to the tabletop roleplaying hobby and more often than not you’ll just scare them off - and rightly so. I mean, what were you thinking? But it’s not as simple as less rules = more beginner-friendly; a game with too little structure can be just as intimidating to newcomers as a game with too much.

Where that line lies is going to vary from person to person; I’ve touched on this in the past, but in a nutshell, there’s no such thing as a body of rules that’s naturally easy to understand. For all that folks like to hold it forth as a virtue of their favourite games, “intuitiveness” is a phantom - it’s nothing more than the intersection of textual clarity and similarity to stuff you’re already familiar with. That’s something that trips a lot of folks up here: thinking that a particular game should easy for newcomers to master because it’s easy for me.

So I suppose the TL/DR version boils down to this:

  • There’s no such thing as tabletop gaming system that isn’t story-focused; there are merely those that yield boring stories, or that demand more work than you feel is reasonable to produce them
  • When it comes to beginner-friendliness, too little rules engagement can be just as bad as too much
  • Where the tipping point between those two failure states is going to be varies from person to person, and finding it depends on understanding both your target audience and your own preconceptions

Pace layers.

I love this concept from Stewart Brand, that different aspects of the world change at different speeds. So, fashion and art changes and cycles faster than commerce which is faster than infrastructure, and in turn governance, culture and finally Nature. The outer layers tend to innovate faster and so pull along, or be stabilised by, the lower, slower layers. At the boundaries you get constructive turbulence, say between Uber and governance, or how the growth in video streaming requires Internet infrastructure to come along with it. I’m sure you can find counter examples, but as a framework for thinking about big complex things I find it quite handy.

4

For more than 40 years, Venezuelan architect and illustrator Rafael Araujo has been fascinated with the golden ratio. Represented by the Greek letter ϕ (or Phi) and equal to 1.618, this ratio is often seen in the natural world. Using a pencil, compass, ruler, and protractor, Araujo renders with exquisite mathematical precision stunning images of nature — “from the hypnotic whorls of the chambered nautilus shell to the balanced proportions of butterfly wings” — that conform to the golden ratio. And he leaves the construction lines intact “to highlight this natural mathematical framework.” It can take him up to 100 hours to create a single composition.

In response to many fans and followers who have asked for renderings of his work that can be colored in, Araujo and a Sydney-based publishing team plan to collect some of his favorite illustrations into a stunning — and soothing! — coloring book. Help bring the book to press here.

Top 10 Reasons Why No One Should Be a Feminist

1. The Label - Language is important. What would a movement under a gender biased name like masculism be about? We saw how they reacted when ‘meninism’ was created to show feminism a mirror of themselves. It’s ironic how much they hate what they see. 

So when you have a movement called feminism, it becomes very difficult to engage in an objective dialog about the true nature of things. As you try to have it, any criticism all too easily becomes conflated with attack on the female gender itself. This is used as their greatest advantage.

2. The Incoherent Ideology - Mainstream media tends to portray feminism in a positive and superficial manner as only having the goal to provide equal economic and social opportunities for women. Yet, when you delve deeper into their beliefs, the foremost among them being the patriarchy, the cartoonish and simplistic nature of their intellectual framework is revealed. 

Patriarchy, as a societal system in which male gender is favored, does not exist. All data points to men always having much harder lives; lived shorter, committed suicide 3 to 4 times more often, less educated and less supported, worked the most difficult and dangerous jobs, used as meat fodder in senseless wars (often shamed by women into joining), and are less happy than women. 

Feminist theory of patriarchy is simply a convenient way to disregard biology and evolution as the sole driver of human behavior and, consequently, society.

3. Illusion of Efficacy - If you look at today’s third world countries you will find that it is impossible to liberate women on the same level as their counterparts in western countries. You might have already noticed that western feminists are mum about the plight of women (and men) in such countries, and that they are always far more likely to talk about perceived stereotypes in video games, T-shirts…than anything of real substance. 

This is because feminism was never responsible for the liberation of women in western countries, and they are perfectly aware of this. Advances in technology, science, and medicine made certain economic and biological realities unsustainable or irrelevant. 

Women predictably took advantage of this, and men recognized this new reality. There were no feminist theories and gender studies involved in this process. 

4. Making Stuff Up - Feminism is fraught with false assertions masquerading as statistical facts. A couple of big ones:

  • In USA, 22%–35% of women who visit hospital emergency rooms due to domestic violence.
    It turns out that the Justice Department and the CDC were referring to the 40 million women who annually visit emergency rooms, but to women, numbering about 550,000 annually, who come to emergency rooms “for violence-related injuries.” Of these, approximately 37% were attacked by intimates. So, it’s not the case that 22%-35% of women who visit emergency rooms are there for domestic violence. The correct figure is less than half of 1%.

  • One in five in college women will be sexually assaulted.
    The one-in-five figure is based on the Campus Sexual Assault Study, commissioned by the National Institute of Justice and conducted from 2005 to 2007. Two prominent criminologists, Northeastern University’s James Alan Fox and Mount Holyoke College’s Richard Moran, have noted its weaknesses: “The estimated 19% sexual assault rate among college women is based on a survey at two large four-year universities, which might not accurately reflect our nation’s colleges overall. In addition, the survey had a large non-response rate, with the clear possibility that those who had been victimized were more apt to have completed the questionnaire, resulting in an inflated prevalence figure.”Fox and Moran also point out that the study used an overly broad definition of sexual assault. Respondents were counted as sexual assault victims if they had been subject to “attempted forced kissing” or engaged in intimate encounters while intoxicated.

  • Women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns—for doing the same work.
    The 23-cent gender pay gap is actually the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week. When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing. It’s illegal for employees to pay women less if they’re doing the identical work with identical experience and qualifications. Do you really believe millions of companies would happily lose millions of dollars by illegally paying men more than women simply because they’re part of a patriarchy? Come on now. 

Why do these fallacious claims have so much appeal and staying power? 

The biggest problem is notorious statistical illiteracy among journalists, feminist academics, and especially politicians. There is also an ingrained human tendency to be protective of women—stories of female exploitation are readily believed, and vocal skeptics risk appearing indifferent to women’s suffering. 

5. Hypocrisy - One sure way to find out that feminism is not about gender equality but female supremacy is to actually listen to what they say. Forget their whole phoney spiel about “the definition” of feminism, actually listen to them and watch their actions instead. Let’s look at some:

Feminists skewed the definition of domestic abuse, resulting in only male abusers being arrested and female abusers not. Feminists petitioned to have the government stop prosecuting women for filing false accusations. Feminists successfully made it legally impossible for women to be charged with rape against men. Feminists violently protests against university speakers and shut down events which talks about mens and boys mental issues. 

Mobs of feminists protested, assaulted and abused a group of rosary-praying Catholic men who were peacefully protecting the cathedral in the city of San Juan from threats of vandalism. Feminists shut down forums for battered husbands. Feminists create a law that gives women who kill their husbands lighter sentences if they were victims of abuse but if the man is a victim of abuse and kills his wife he will still face the full sentence. Feminists started a campaign against father’s rights groups. Feminists attempt to put an end to Father’s Day. 

Feminists made it possible for men to be arrested for sitting with their knees too many inches apart from one another. Feminists fought against laws granting men anonymity until charged with the crime of rape—not convicted, just charged. Feminists abolish due process for men. 

Feminist protests result in men not even being considered entry into certain university STEM classrooms simply because they’re men. Feminists have forced universities to make any new male student take mandatory classes about “how not to act on their own predatory instincts”. Feminists demand law schools to ban the teaching of rape laws. Feminists demand women students must have safe spaces while men are refused any sort of meeting place. 

Feminists demand that men cannot be feminists, they can only be allies and have no right to speak on feminist issues. Feminists attacks male cartoonist and are hailed a hero of feminism. Feminists try to shut down women’s prisons, believing only men should be locked up. Feminists continually protest against funding for mens shelters, making it impossible for any mens shelters to be created. Feminist even threatened to kill a woman for suggesting men need shelters. 

Feminists protest and shut down meetings about male suicide. Feminists demand the government does not assist unemployed men. Feminists launch anti-men campaigns. Feminists create propaganda video of masked women killing men. Feminists laugh and cheer on women who have beat, abused, humiliated and even mutilated their boyfriends/husbands. 

But yes, feminism is “all about equality of the sexes. It’s as much for men as it is for women.” 

6. Dogmatic, Anti-scientific Hegemony - When other women raise scholarly objections to countless inaccuracies, falsehoods, outright foolishness, and misinformation in feminist theories and studies, they are ostracized and attacked, sometimes physically; a behavior reminiscent of a cult, not a movement for gender equality.

Some of the dissenting women who suffered these attacks: Christina Hoff Sommers, Camille Paglia, Wendy McElroy, Elaine Showalter, Erin Pizzey, Elizabeth Loftus.

Further still, they are often branded as tools of the patriarchy or enemy to women. Feminists even try to penetrate hard sciences like biology, chemistry, math, and physics.

In Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science, co-authored by Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt, the attempts verge on lunacy. According to feminists arithmetic word problems are inherently sexist in their content, and hence can only be “liberated” by a feminist perspective. Here is one such example of evil patriarchy:

“Bob is a fireman who makes $40,000 a year. His boss, Fire Chief Larry has advised him that he will be receiving a 5% salary increase next year. What will his new yearly salary be?”

Feminist mathematics would alter fireman to firewoman (or perhaps fireperson); it would change the name Bob to Barbara. It would also alter Larry to Linda.

This is not a joke, they really mean it. Not satisfied at having “liberated” mathematics from its “sexist” shackles, academic feminists have enlightened us about the sexist properties of DNA. Specifically, feminist biochemistry proposes that DNA is an instrument of male dominance as evidenced by its “master molecule” narrative (McElroy, 1996). There are countless other examples of “scientific contributions” arising from feminist theorists, however, I think you get the general idea.

7. Toxicity between Genders - The feminist movement has created a great deal of confusion and unpleasant atmosphere regarding the permissible dynamics between the sexes. Men and women no longer trust their instincts honed by evolution; instead they seek to adhere to new “feminist” rules of intersexual conduct, as they are highly fearful of being accused of being “sexist pigs” or “tools of the patriarchy”.

Places of business and school campuses have become highly regulated, and men are now walking on eggshells. Even a simple compliment can be construed as sexual harassment or used as a leverage in advancing one’s career, and sexual contact is ever more increasingly used as a tool for petty revenge.

8. Using the Violence of the State - Feminists want nothing more than to use the state power to skew the justice system in favor of women, from disparity in sentencing for crimes, domestic violence, bizarre divorce and custody laws completely biased towards women, medical research, schooling, and healthcare costs. Counting on other men to do their dirty work has been a huge success for the feminist movement.

9. Victimhood mentality - The problem with modern feminism, is that the patriarchy/male privilege/male oppression of women paradigm fosters a mindset of victimhood. A number of feminists appear to have developed a psychological condition called, victim mentality. 

Modern feminism revolves around a philosophy of hatred of a group of people based on some perceived wrongdoing they committed. The oppression feminists erroneously perceive from men, becomes a self-serving moral justification for virtually any action they deem necessary to further their cause, regardless of the social consequences. 

They become perceptually blind to the immorality of their own actions and dehumanise those they consider to be against them, which is in this case men and anyone who disagrees with them. This is what an “us against them” mentality brings about.

Western women already have the upper hand in education, scholarships and grants, employment, healthcare, government assistance, support programs, protection and shelter, workplace safety, legal rights, due process, life expectancy, exclusion of responsibility, research and charity for women’s issues and social justice immunity. 

Yes all these things are wonderful for women but the point is, how are they still claiming they’re all so badly oppressed and incapable of doing anything in this big bad patriarchal society? How is it exactly that men and even little boys have an almighty privilege and are evil oppressors no matter their lack of wealth or status? And how is hiding in safe spaces, slapping trigger warnings on everything and silencing opposing views with tears and violence empowering women?

As Christina Hoff Sommers says: If western women are oppressed, that would mean western men would have to be the only oppressor class in history who are less educated, more victimized, have disadvantaged legal rights and are shorter lived than those they oppress. They must be the only oppressor class who take on society’s gritty, dangerous, deadly jobs as their oppressed victims excel. 

10. Treating Women as Less Culpable - Let’s stop conflating the toxic, confused ideology of feminism with the equality for female gender. By doing that we are actively infantilizing women.

Women were always treated as less accountable than men in every area of life, while men were viewed as beasts of burden and war. Consequently, statistics clearly show that their life was and is much easier, far more comfortable, and the problems they face are given disproportionate attention and resources by several orders of magnitude.

It is a fact of nature that our sexually dimorphic species creates such fertile ground for women to exploit; the women are wonderful effect clearly demonstrating this.

Let’s, for a change, treat them as adults, so they can stop skewing the whole society in their favor,  so that they can stop with the cartoonish patriarchy, which they use like a stick to get even greater privileges.

For once, instead of letting them blame the imaginary patriarchy for everything wrong in their lives; let’s stop perceiving them as delicate flowers, and start treating them as responsible adults. They were only able to skew the system so perversely because we infantilized them.

Let’s not indulge them when they seek to monetize their manufactured victimhood, and when they seek the equality of results instead of the equality of opportunity.

A coloring book with hand drawn Golden Ratio illustrations under way

Rafael Araujo is a Venezuelan architect and illustrator who has been drawing beautiful geometric illustrations of nature, entirely by hand, for over 40 years. He creates the designs at an old drafting table with a pencil, compass, ruler and protractor.

Rafael was a teenager when he first learned about the golden ratio, represented by the Greek letter phi (φ). It appears in nature as for example sea shells, plant leaves and branches grow in spirals where the ratio of the amount of turn from one branch to the next is precisely 1.618.

Rafael applies the golden ratio to his geometric formulas and leaves the construction lines intact to highlight this natural mathematical framework.

Blue morpho butterfly sequence

Chambered nautilus shell

Butterfly infinite sequence

Fibonacci sequence shell 

Araujo’s coloring book has a successful funding campaign under way and will hopefully be available sometime soon. In the meantime, the campaign is still running on Kickstarter with plenty of perks available to backers.

I definitely feel like placing too much stake in identity politics when it comes to a material analysis of patriarchy and gendered power dynamics is counterproductive + I don’t think that identifying as nonbinary automatically allows you to sidestep the responsibility of analysing your role / position in patriarchy as a structure (because, by its nature, it is a framework that coercively implicates us all in it)

I think that the idea that, under patriarchy, male > nonbinary > female is a massive oversimplification + I think that the way gender actually, materially functions is very different to the ~gender is your playground there are infinity genders call yourself whatever you want~ ideology. this isn’t to say that people shouldn’t be allowed + encouraged to identify however they want and however makes them comfortable, but as soon as we start to mistake that for actual material analysis we’re going wrong somewhere. I think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that gender (under a western colonial framework) is, at its core and in all of the ways in which we are coerced into policing it on a micro level, a way of subjugating and oppressing a class of people (i.e. women) + throwing some glitter on it doesn’t change that

I haven’t talked about this too much up until now + I’m not keen to start writing essays about it anytime soon because tbh I don’t think I have the language and, like, organisation of ideas, down enough to make sure that I’m not misunderstood + that my words can’t be co-opted in support of transmisogynistic ideas because that’s as always not what I’m trying to do 

#nextarch by @reiulframstad #next_top_architects Whether over ideas or strategies, feelings, actions or transactions, the choice of what to record and the decision over what to preserve, and thereby privilege, occur within socially constructed, but now naturalized frameworks that determine the significance of what becomes archives.
Coming back to the RRA studio after traveling makes me reflect on the many paths