As KiwiRPG week 2023 comes to an end, our committee chair Liam Stevens writes to our community and also those from all around the world who have turned their thoughts to Kēmu Whakatau O Aotearoa this week.
Kia ora e te whanau!
KiwiRPG 2023 is coming to an end, and what a week it has been! We have seen a barrage of awesome KiwiRPG content, all across live streams, podcasts, game bundles, media etc. It has been an excellent week to be a part of and makes me so proud to sit within this community alongside you all. We truly are a community that performs at a world class level and can stand to get the world’s attention.
Full confession; I did not do a hell of a lot this KiwiRPG week. The joys of being a civil servant in election year has seen me consumed in work and work related travel to breaking point. Thankfully I needn’t have worried. KiwiRPG is greater than the sum of all of its parts, and so many of you stepped up to the plate and delivered throughout the week. The way everyone was able to come in and do their bit made everything come together smoothly and I am seeing all over the place nothing but positive responses to our collective celebration.
It’s hard to believe that our first KiwiRPG was just a year ago. And what a year! In that time we have organized, made KiwiRPG an actual thing as opposed to an idea, and have seen so many new people come into the fold. Hopefully that growth continues, and with it we see a more diverse range of voices and ideas enter the fold too.
So as the week winds down we are now planning to take time to consider how it went, what could be done better, what opportunities were missed and what should be further developed. We expect it will take several years before KiwiRPG week reaches its full potential so until then we will continue to analyze and learn from these sorts of event’s. I fully expect the community to be involved in that discussion. So get to thinking about what you think worked, what didn’t, what we could do better and what we missed out on. In Aotearoa we know you must look to the past to look forward, so let us all do that.
In the coming weeks here in Aotearoa we will be coming into Matariki, which is a time for reflection on the year that has been and planning for the year ahead. I encourage you to think back to where we were last year, a small discord group full of enthusiasm and hype to get stuck, and look at us now. Then imagine where you want us to be next year. Hold on to that thought, hold it near and dear but share it too. Dreams and aspirations work best when they see the light of day.
Lastly if there is anyone subscribed to this email who is not a part of KiwiRPG and you are wondering about joining; please do! If you live in Aotearoa, or are from here but live abroad, you are more than welcome. This is especially true of our marginalized communities but especially Tangata Whenua. This community simultaneously is about nurturing our hobby in NZ while also being Kaitiaki of the taonga of Aotearoa in the broader RPG sphere, a task that we have already had to exercise not long ago. So the more people we have, and the more diverse our membership, the lighter that load and the more well placed we are to make that happen.
If you subscribe to the mailing list and are not from here, welcome! Please stay subscribed to this mail list, as we are only getting started and it is going to get much bigger and better from here.
I wanted to take a moment to respond to this last week’s controversy surrounding World of Darkness’s appropriation of the likeness of Tāme Iti, renowned activist and kaumatua of Ngāi Tūhoe, and their response to it. Due to the complicated and confusing nature of publishing for the World of Darkness line between Paradox and Renegade Game Studios, I shall refer to both entities as World of Darkness.
It is already documented elsewhere, but the TL:DR is that World of Darkness released a preview from their upcoming Werewolf The Apocalypse book. In the artwork of this preview was a character that had Tāme Iti’s face, including his Mataora, using a replication of a photo of Tāme. The community noticed and called on World of Darkness to fix this issue. World of Darkness posted two statements, one stating they would look into this, and then later another stating that they would be removing this art from the upcoming publication.
Removing the artwork is the right thing to do, and I have to commend World of Darkness for taking this step. This issue happening at all is unacceptable. That said, it is important that we acknowledge when actions are taken to right these sorts of wrongs. Sadly it is all too common that the injustices against indigenous communities by publishers go unrectified in these situations. So when action is taken I am always glad to see it. Hopefully this is only the start of more efforts to move towards avoiding this sort of wrong completely going forward.
Let me be blunt here; World of Darkness is fortunate that their cultural incompetence was caught in a pre-publishing preview. Had any other page in their book been the subject of this preview, it is highly likely that this appropriation of Tāme’s likeness and our cultural traditions would have been published. And I do wonder what other wrongs exist in the pages yet unseen.
The industry needs to normalize the practice of not utilizing indigenous cultures for their game’s aesthetic. It is very likely that the artist in this case did not know much about the culture they were using, they likely searched the internet for tribal facial tattoos and just helped themselves to the image, making many faux pas in the process. Instead the use of indigenous culture, or any culture for that matter, should be a deliberate act, with the experts of the culture being engaged from the start to ensure it is used with the care, mana and respect it deserves. When you treat cultures like aesthetics or bags of inspiration for the plunder, you are going to put your foot in it, and World of Darkness demonstrated this fully.
Much has been made of the collaboration with indigenous consultants for the current Werewolf line and yet this still happened. This is because not all indigenous cultures are alike. This may seem like an obvious statement, but it is one too often forgotten.
Often when publishers talk about seeking consultation about cultural safety, what they really seek is to be safe from criticism for the use of this culture. But the reality is you are never safe from criticism for using another’s culture, nor should you be. Instead seek collaboration to empower indigenous cultures to express themselves as they see fit, either through their own works or as collaborators on yours. Often we have had to fight, and still do, to maintain the mana of our cultures, so it should be us who shares them with the world.
There is a common saying “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission”. It is that thinking which has resulted in indigenous cultures having to cling on to the edges of their cultural identity with tight fists as colonial aggressors take take and take some more. When a game designer thinks it’s their right to include our culture, watered down as it is, into their works without permission, they are joining the long line of colonial thieves. So instead, let us change the dynamic. Let us encourage others to not only ask for permission, but collaboration. Let indigenous tell their stories, rather than discover their face upon your page, awkwardly attached to another body bearing Polynesian tattoos.
But until then, I acknowledge World of Darkness for admitting their wrongs and seeking to fix them. What is done is done, but hopefully going forward they learn, at the very least, what not to do. And going forward won’t need to seek forgiveness. I have just seen that Tāme is aware of what happened and has contacted World of Darkness to discuss. Hopefully they learn from him and his mana too. Let us all see this for the lesson to the industry that it should be and aim to do much better.
Whāia te mātauranga hei oranga mō koutou
Hei konā mai
Liam Stevens Ngāti Kahungunu ki te wairoa Chair of KiwiRPG
KIWI TTRPG CREATORS STAND TOGETHER IN NEW ASSOCIATION
There is a new community voice in the international tabletop role-playing games field.
Aotearoa New Zealand’s TTRPG creators have come together to launch Kēmu Whakatau O Aotearoa, to spotlight their work on the global stage, support emerging talent, and speak out when needed.
The new association, Kēmu Whakatau O Aotearoa, also known by the short form KiwiRPG, is woven from two major strands of creative work: game design and writing, and creation of content for streams, podcasts, video and live performance. Many local creators work across both strands.
The first KiwiRPG committee is Liam Stevens (Ngāti Kahungunu), Penny D. Boyce, and Morgan Davie, who together bring significant experience across many different facets of the TTRPG industry.
The first act of the new committee was to announce the dates of the second KiwiRPG week, which will run from Saturday 10 June to Sunday 18 June (NZ time).
KiwiRPG week showcases Aotearoa’s TTRPG streamers, podcasters, game designers, youtubers, freelance writers, and live performers, featuring special events, game launches, and special deals.
The creation of Kēmu Whakatau O Aotearoa | KiwiRPG as a formal association is a direct result of the tremendous success of the 2022 KiwiRPG week.
This evening (Sunday 27 November) at 7:30, all Kiwi creatives in TTRPGs are invited to the first great KiwiRPG hui!
KiwiRPG week was a fantastic beginning for Kēmu Whakatau O Aotearoa, and it’s time to set ourselves up for the future. This online hui is for all TTRPG creatives (podcasters, streamers, game designers, freelances, others) in or connected to Aotearoa NZ, and anyone else with shared interests.
Join us as we come together, build our community a bit, and make some choices for the future.
A new KiwiRPG association?
One important thing we will look at during tonight’s hui is setting up a proper association for KiwiRPG creatives.
A short description (with a long appendix!) is in this google doc. Check out the comments too; we are working together to make sure this association takes the right shape.
Well! Well well well! Well well well well well!!!! It’s been a week and a bit since the beginning of Kiwi RPG week. A week of wonder and amazement, chock full of streams, episode releases, interviews, blog posts, announcements, discussions, friendships, and of course, the blogging team’s gradual descent into chaos and insanity (and I mean really, that was kinda to be expected).
But really, holy shit! And I mean the sincerely holy sort of shit. Our first foray into Kiwi RPG week has been pretty epic. We had an immense amount of support from all across the Kiwi TTRPG-Sphere from podcasters, streamers, writers and creatives from all walks of life. We had the excitement of the Monster of the Week Announcements, we had the absolute chaos of Kiwi creatives collaborating copiously, several new Kiwi TTRPGs being released (here, here, here, and even here), and even Kiwi TTRPG bundles going on sale (here and here!), to name a few of the highlights of the week.
Warm and Fuzzy Insides
But really, what set this last week apart, in my opinion, is the sincerity and wholesomeness that brought together our community. I’ve never before seen such love and care and earnest joy being put into something for the sake of the community and for one another. There have been individuals who’ve been instrumental in Kiwi RPG week who have done so without any expectation of reward or even recognition, people who’ve jumped on board and changed up their release schedules or general life schedules just to make time for Kiwi RPG week, and people who’ve gone above and beyond doing their very best to promote and get this whole thing into the internets and beyond.
And I think that that speaks immensely to what kind of community we’ve built and fostered. People ask and joke and wonder what distinguishes Kiwiness in the TTRPG sphere and I think Kiwi RPG week pretty succinctly depicted exactly what it is that sets us apart. Is it the absurdity? The humour? The accent? Well… Yes. But it’s more than that. It’s also the community, the vibe, the care and the support.
I think it’s important to realise that this whole thing—all the blog posts, the events, the collaborations; everything that you may have seen happening this week—all started with a simple message on a Facebook Group asking for any interest in an idea—just a simple nice idea—to do some kind of thing to showcase Kiwi RPGs. What started off as an unassuming post turned into something that I personally consider a pretty god damn amazing success. What started as a single hashtag (#KiwiRPG) turned into something more; something that we can all look back at and smile about.
Some Shameless Name Calling
The amount of support and excitement we received from the community was unparalleled. I cannot and will not even attempt to name everyone who contributed and went above and beyond for Kiwi RPG week. But, I will be a bit shameless and name three individuals without whom I sincerely do not think this would have come as far as it did.
Firstly, we’ve got the Magnificently Motivated Morgan Davie (also known as Morgue; and I think should also be known by Momo, Morgalicious, Morgtastic and so forth). That Facebook post I was talking about before? Yes, that’s right, it was him. The push, the marketing, the reaching out, the organisation, the idea, the push (electric boogaloo), the patience, the blogging, and the website? Yup, all him. Morgue, if you’re reading this (and I really hope you are, cause if not, holy shit who’s doing the QA on this chaotic post), thank you for everything. Without you this would never have been possible and I just cannot express the sheer level of warmth everyone in the Kiwi TTRPG community feels towards you.
Secondly, we have Blogger Extraordinaire, Lyndon Hood (also known as… Actually just that, but he should also be known as the Lynster, Lyndon the Don, Don Lyndon, Don Hood, Hood Don? DonLyn the Hood? I’m… Really bad at this…). He also had a hand in pretty much everything that needed doing. The organisation? Yes. Blogging? Heck yeah. The website, the push, the excitement? Yupsicles, his hands went places. Lyndon was there from the start. Without Lyndon, Morgue and the rest of us would have had a mighty hard time getting everything done in time. Kudos dude. If you’re reading this (and again, really hope you are cause QA and stuff), thank you. Thank you for taking on so much, for being so impassioned through and through, and for being the awesome person that you are!!
And last, but not least, we have the Marketing Maestro, Liz Parker (Lizarooni, Liz the Lambent, Lucky Liz, Legendary Liz, Liz the… I should stop….). Liz may not have there from the very beginning like Morgue and Lyndon, but damn did she bring it when she started. Not only was she immensely helpful in the social media and hype aspects of things—retweeting and posting and sharing and creating lists and all sorts of things—but she also joined several streams and events and brought her absolute best to everything she did. If you’re reading this Liz (are you? Will you? Can you?), thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve brought to Kiwi RPG week!!
Is it time to panic?
No. No it is not. I’m sure you’re thinking, “But Azul, how can we not panic now that we don’t have the Kiwi RPG goodness that is oh so required for us to survive?” Well… I have some good news. If you squint hard enough, believe in the heart of the cards, and then grow your heart by three sizes that day, every week will be Kiwi RPG week! Yes, you read that right. Every. Single. Frikking. Week. Because we’re all still creating! We’re all still releasing! And we’re all most certainly mostly alive!!
So ask yourselves. Will Brad Zimmerman start a podcast with actual babies? Will Morgue finish his quest to be the One True Morgue? And will you allow the sexy-accented fruit-appropriating anti-gardening-fanatics of Kiwiland to take over your lives and then the world? Yes. The answer to all these questions is yes.
So far we’ve explored lots of exciting games that have been launched into the world from Aotearoa. Look at them all! So shiny! Now, to bring our tour of the game design side of KiwiRPG to a close, we just need to look over our shoulder – yes! You see it now! I know, it’s big, isn’t it? That’s right, it’s heaps and heaps of Kiwi-made material for other games!
As Chief Brody might say, we’re going to need a bigger blog tour series. Well tough nuggins Chief Brody! You’re gonna compare scars and fight that shark in the one blogpost remaining to you, and you’re gonna like it!
The Dargons and the Dungons
Into the 5th edition of D&D? It’s only the biggest game in the world. If you like the 5e-ness of it all, KiwiRPG has a few things for you to check out:
Simon Carryer just dropped a “fan remix” of a legendary D&D adventure module, grab it free from his website! And while you’re there check out his other adventures, his compendium of rules, and a random dungeon generator, which is I think the smartest and most sophisticated and successful random dungeon generator ever made. (And there have been a lot of attempts over the years!)
*final self-promo alert* The biggest thing I’ve been working on is a|state 2nd edition, for Handiwork Games. This is a reboot & reworking of early-2000s cult hit a|state, about hardscrabble troublemakers in a sprawling and haunted sci-fi cityscape, and honestly it is an incredible project.
Malcolm Craig wrote Hot War in the cafes of Wellington! Ha ha, he’s in the blogpost too! You can’t stop me! Nothing can stop anything! It’s the climactic action sequence, the shark is eating the boat, no time for details now!
Wait, that’s it?
Is it really time to stop?
Yes definitely time to stop you are out of control plus it’s the last day
ok ok fine
But only with this final note: that’s definitely not all. There are gonna be other people out there making stuff and getting it out into the world, and they are going to be from Aotearoa, and I don’t know about them yet. Kiwis connect out to the global creative scene in all kinds of ways and, because we often don’t do much shouting about it to each other, their fellow Kiwis might not even know they’re doing it.
So expect this list to grow, as we find out about more people. (It might not literally grow, I’m not committing to editing this post or anything. But it will grow… in my mind.)
(Plus I might remember ones I’ve forgotten, whoops, I bet I’ve forgotten someone really obvious too and I will feel bad about it.)
Well, that’s it then. The last day of KiwiRPG Week 2022. A good time to stop, even though there’s more to talk about, always.
(Stop it morgue, you can’t introduce a whole new subject area in the last few paragraphs of a four-post journey!)
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour. I am sure you now have many more tabs open in your internet browser, where they will wait for months until you lose them in a computer crash; or maybe you’ll read them now?
Read them now, I reckon. It’s what the shark would do.
Aotearoa New Zealand’s cultural output has its own unique flavour – as does the kiwifruit (which we imported from overseas and then made our own, naming it after a bird that can’t fly, has its nostrils at the end of its beak, and carries an absolutely enormous egg compared to its body weight).
Like the kiwifruit, the first online TTRPG shows may have come from overseas but we have definitely taken to them and done some surprising things with the idea.
Everyone knows each other As a kiwi overseas, there’s a thing where someone asks you if you know, say, Sharon, who is also a New Zealander. And you have to explain that it’s ridiculous to expect people in a country of five million people to know each other but, yes, Sharon’s mum was your teacher at school.
Our shows mostly know each other, too. More people than there’s room to list here have played in multiple kiwi RPG shows, or made guest appearances. Beyond that, there have also been regular crossover supergroup streams (and here), and, in 2021, people from throughout the New Zealand D&D community joined together for a marathon 24 hour live stream, raising more than $6000 for charity.
Punching above our weight We like beating the world here every once in a while, so also like the phrase ‘per capita’. Aotearoa has heaps of TTRPG shows and not that many people. Are we beating the world, per capita? I don’t know, the maths was too hard.
I can tell you that Brad Thompson, kiwi game designer, writer, and DM, placed in the top three of Wizards of the Coast’s Global DM Challenge 2021. That’s pretty awesome. And now he’s sharing heaps of advice at Cutting Words.
And then there’s Viva La Dirt League. They’ve been producing sketches about computer RPGs since 2013. In 2019 they started the NPC D&D campaign, with characters from the NPC parody videos, and have since turned their sights on TTRPGs with their D&D Logic series. They have 3.76 million YouTube subscribers and earlier this year raised $2.5 million on Kickstarter to make themselves an actual studio. And they’re pretty funny. (Their GM, Robert Hartley, has his own twitch channel including D&D advice and interviews along with VLDL extra content.)
That accent The New Zealand accent was voted the sexiest in the world. If you want to hear it, you’ve definitely come to the right place. For a particularly strong example, Dungeons & Dipshits somehow convinced Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt to record an introduction for their episodes. Does this reflect the somehow apt chaos of that podcast’s adventures? Yes. (Dipshits has stopped production, catch it while you can.)
There are plenty of different accents to be found in Aotearoa, though. Check out Asian-influenced setting and kiwi-Asian stars of Dumplings & Dragons. Or if people doing accents is your thing, have a look at the finely-voiced and lovable characters of Saturday Knights or Waterdeep Mountain High, but don’t miss out on the relentless all-round vocal (and everything else) experience that is Danger Team GO!
Or try For Crits and Giggles where, basically by accident, all the dwarves canonically have an Australian accent.
Friendly Often visitors to Aotearoa will be asked “How do you like the country?” before they’ve properly gotten off the plane. The correct answer is, it’s beautiful and the people are very friendly.
Music Aotearoa has produced more than its share of international pop hits, and its own way of strumming a guitar. We also bring you the stirring themes of Saturday Knights and Dungeons & Comedians, a 20-minute chill vibes remix of the The Tear-able Adventures of the Janderson Breffords Parchment Company’s theme tune, the basically-an-overture DM Vahid Qualis has created for Dice Legenz, the 90s-action-cartoon-esque brilliance of the music for Danger Team GO!, and Don’t Forget Your Towel, who deserve special mention for recording a different intro for each of the many game systems they explore.
Swearing We swear a lot in this country, often in a nice but extreme way, while casually roasting our friends. I’m looking at you, Season Quest.
Reticence Kiwis can be suspicious of boasting, and don’t like people who “think too much of themselves”. This is probably a good thing politics-wise but you have to understand the highest possible praise a New Zealander can usually give, for example, their own podcast, is something like, “I think we’ve got something pretty good here.” So please do like, subscribe, and leave a review.
And then there’s Dice Legenz, who call their streams things like “The Most Exciting Episode ?!?”. And if that makes you guess that their streams are full of action, quickfire gameplay, and startling story revelation – well, you’re not wrong.
Special connection to nature In the Diceratops Presents D&D universe, they have canonically killed the moon.
Fungus Might just be me, but listening across various kiwi actual play podcasts, there seemed to more mushrooms that you’d expect. Exploding (Dumplings & Dragons), being recklessly ingested (The Fate of Isen), giving potentially deadly poisoning (GM Breakout), destroying the world (Dungeons & Comedians), and – if I recall correctly? – impersonating people (Waterdeep Mountain High). There are probably more, I lost track.
No gardens We’re a nation of storytellers, and a traditional pastime is trying to convince foreigners of bizarre falsehoods about our country. Unrelatedly: gardening is banned in New Zealand. I challenge you to find mention of gardening in New Zealand TTRPG content. If you do, it will be passing, and furtive.
On the other hand Jewels From NZhas actual facts about New Zealand as well as TTRPG gameplay and opinion from Julz from Fate of Isen (who should not be confused with Jules from Fate of Isen).
Big OE There’s a tradition of young New Zealanders going on OE (Overseas Experience) to see the world. Travel has been tricky lately, so what about a Big Online Experience? Tonnes of kiwis are meeting the world by streaming their games, with a little bit of local flare.
I’ve got personal streaming favorites in Getting Dicey (currently trying to remain the good guys as they explore The Curse of Strahd’s Amber Temple, and hosts to other Kiwi RPG events) and the high energy adventures of Dice Legenz (also good if you like minis and terrain!). But there’s also live streams or replays from The Road Unknown, Māori Nerd, Russell Kirkby,Dice Dice Baby, Evldoa, Table Tales, and anyone who wants to share the story they’re making with the world.
Now head off and sample every flavour of #kiwiRPG show! Start with all the links on our shows page!