Sunday, March 23, 2008

Paizo Publishing announces Pathfinder RPG

Back to my gaming roots for a moment.

Paizo (who has, to take a guess, grown tired of Wizards of the Coast's shenanigans with the D&D 4th Edition developers' kits) has announced the development and open playtesting of a D&D 3.5-compatible tabletop RPG called Pathfinder, after the adventure path series they started publishing after Wizards pulled their licenses to publish Dragon and Dungeon magazines.

Rather than convert their Pathfinder line to 4e, Paizo is developing their own ruleset based on 3.5e, and are conducting open alpha and beta tests. The alpha version of the rules may be found at the title link.

Having looked over the alpha version, I find what they have so far mostly good. I especially like the changes to combat maneuvers, but what I like most is the open testing; being able to see production in progress and possibly even influence it is exciting to me.

If you're into d20 tabletop gaming and aren't comfortable with the direction of 4e (or even just have a large collection of d20 sourcebooks that you'd like to keep using, like me) then I highly recommend checking out Paizo's initiative here and joining in the testing. Maybe we can keep up support for our game after WotC abandons it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Indoctrinate U

This is an unusual step for me on this blog. Today I'm writing a film review.

I have not chosen to write about just any movie. Something like, say, Meet the Spartans (or even 300, the movie it parodies), to name a recent example, isn't even worth my time to watch, much less review. I am undertaking this step for Indoctrinate U, which I honestly feel is one of the most important films certainly of the decade, and possibly within my lifetime.

Why do I feel this way about an independently produced documentary about academic bias? It's simple. Education, and the academia that is responsible for a large part of it and is the subject of the film, is the very heart and soul of the future; without it, we have nothing.

With the above as my premise, it is easy to understand why I consider Indoctrinate U an incredibly important film. The documentary delves deep into the issue of political bias in academia and, far more importantly, the issue of political repression of students and faculty who do not conform to the prevailing biases of a given campus.

For years, anecdotes of political correctness gone wild in universities have circulated around the rumor mill. Most people probably don't pay them much mind; I never did until I actually went to college, started to become politically aware, and ended up as a civil libertarian and classical liberal (as opposed to the more modern variety). Then, I experienced it firsthand.

But this post is about the film, not my own experiences. While I underwent significant vigilante censorship in college, my case is nothing next to some of the ones Evan Maloney, the filmmaker (whose own blog, Brain Terminal, may be found here), covers in his feature-length documentary. Two of the victims of campus political repression he interviews, one a professor and one a student, underwent harassment and abuses of administrative power so severe that they had to seek remedy in federal court. Perhaps not coincidentally, both of those cases arose from the California State University system at California Polytechnic, and several other cases of severe political repression covered in the film concern other California schools, notably UC Berkeley and San Francisco State.

But it's not limited to California's famously far-left and proud of it university system; the problem extends nationwide, with the documentary touching on incidents at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Yale, Brooklyn College, Michigan State, Bucknell University, and several other schools, effectively putting an end to the era of mere isolated anecdotes of collegiate abuse of liberty. This film exposes the root of the problem for what it is; a systemic and institutionalized campus orthodoxy completely contrary to both individual liberty and academic freedom.

I am once again adding my voice to the call for reform on college campuses, as I did when I was still in school. The sort of widespread academic orthodoxy that Indoctrinate U exposes is poisoning the nation's very future, and must not continue. As Maloney calls for in his film, there needs to be another campus free speech movement, as there was in the 1960s, if students are to gain their freedom of thought and overcome the intellectual sloth that is fostered by rooted orthodoxy. For that is the real danger; in growing to think of its current mode of thinking as the only correct one, academia risks stagnation and complacency in the testing of its ideas. Thank you, Evan Maloney, for your clarion call to action.