Civilized Argument Online

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been involved in a private Facebook group that has sought to bring ideological opponents together to discuss contentious issues. I was part of the moderating staff for a few months, and I gave input on the guidelines. Whereas the founder’s primary interest has been in building the group and inviting quality members, I’ve been more interested in seeing if his experiment could succeed and be translated into a system that anyone could use. I’ve reached the conclusion that the experiment is largely a success, and that we can radically improve our online dialog.

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When identity politics trumps all

In a recent Facebook thread on identity politics, I made the following contribution, with some redaction here.

I see a dozen online memes an hour speaking to Trump’s “misogyny” and “racism.” These terms have suffered scope creep. They no longer refer to an avowed attitude of racial or gender superiority. Now they apply to people’s actions. So why shouldn’t they? After all, if someone uses racist language or targets a minority group for discrimination or exploitation, they probably hold racist attitudes; if a man takes sexual liberties with a woman, he probably holds women in contempt. Anyone who objects to judging people to be racist or sexist based on their actions is probably racist or sexist themselves. Continue reading

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Do Dungeon Masters roll magic dice?

Tony Daniel at Baen commissioned this article from me. I’d been thinking about the role of self-deception in both creating and appreciating stories.

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Glossary for The Precambrian Conspiracy

The Precambrian Conspiracy is either my public-domain project or the real state of affairs. In either case, feel free to set stories in this universe. Ideas are cheap and this is no exception. However, I ask that you give me or other contributors attribution for ideas you crib — you can just reference this blog if you’re in doubt. Thanks. I will update this glossary from time to time. Feel free to contribute to it in the comments. Continue reading

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Dungeons & Dragons: How You Play

I’ve recently introduced my young nephews to D&D, and that inspired me to write a how-to series, which Loren Rosson III has been hosting on his excellent blog The Busybody. I’m gratified and humbled he’s supported the project. I started playing D&D in 1980, and a few years ago, I became interested in really figuring out what makes it work — that is, when it does. In 2014, I wrote a long essay for Baen Books that covers the history of D&D and indulges in some general theorizing, but I wanted to write a more practical guide on the topic. I got my nephews up and playing and having fun within an hour by explaining to them the core trappings of the game, which I cover in article one, and then adopting a viewpoint that I now outline in article two. I will probably write a third and final article that puts everything together, describing the adventure I wrote and ran for my nephews and how I employed my own advice to keep things moving.

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Liberalism Needs a Housecleaning

After this post, I hope to leave off religion and politics for a while. I’m a liberal and liberal apologist but also a philosophical conservative, meaning I’m more into Adam Smith than Karl Marx, more into Plato and Lao Tzu than Nietzsche. But don’t let me do your homework, please. Read widely.

I’m bugged by the logical fallacies and dissembling self-described liberals engage in. When we stray from logic and the facts, we give our opponents ammunition, end up being unfair, and generally sabotage the whole project of making the world better.

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Essential D&D on The Busybody

Last month, I introduced my nephews Max and Eli and their friend Griffin to D&D. I hadn’t played in a while, and I needed to get back up to speed. I waded through several old rulebooks and also the Pathfinder rules, scavenging ideas about how to present the essentials to them. I also ended up buying the new, 5th Edition, rules. After a couple of weeks of this, I proposed an article series on D&D essentials to my friend the excellent writer Loren Rosson, and he generously agreed to support the project on his blog, The Busybody. Here’s the first article.

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