The Keep, it’s blog, the various projects already with pages and other projects forthcoming are about creating a place for gamers to acknowledge gaming’s strengths, weaknesses, and identify opportunities for growth. That sounds pretty damn pretentious, but I’m going to go with it. Basically, I want to do some of what others are doing with the people that contribute to our goals offering their own perspective and spin on gaming in general. At the same time, I want to address issues and ideas in gaming from a perspective that recognizes that we can do better, in general, with being welcoming at our tables.

With that in mind, here is how we plan to focus on these goals. We are going to write a blog, with the goal of encouraging and inviting a diverse group of gamers to participate in our conversations. If you would like to write for us, please reach out to us via Facebook or Twitter. (I’m still getting our email server set-up correctly)

Beyond the blog, we have two projects that are already in motion in one way or another. The first is the Inclusive Gaming Network. The Inclusive Gaming Network can be found on Facebook and Twitter. We are using that network to encourage the discussion around inclusion in gaming. What do we mean by this? We mean we want PLAYERS to be accepting of diversity at their tables. This includes people on the QUILTBAG spectrum and our gamers of color. At the same time, we want people to realize that we are not pushing people to explicitly change how their game characters or stories are run. We want players of all types to be encouraged and supported in this hobby. Some people enjoy ‘adult-themed’ games that address issues of racism, sexism, and violence. We support that, because we support gamers playing games that they enjoy playing. At the same time, we want to provide support to Storytellers and Game Master’s that want to explore those sorts of topics, but want to ensure their players are not made uncomfortable. This also includes providing support to players that DON’T want to play those sort of games, but their GM’s don’t realize they are going too far. There is a careful balance here, and it does boil down to communication, but once the communication has begun, we need effective language to talk about these ideas effectively. We are hoping to be helpful in facilitating those discussions.

So, that last paragraph is a bit long-winded. Excuse me for that. That being said, I have a lot to say about the goals and benefits of the Inclusive Gaming Network. I’ll be talking about that more in the future, but I wanted to give a brief description of my vision now so people know what they might be getting into.

That brings me to Reach-Out Roleplaying Games. This is really something I’m most excited about. RORPG is a project that will have at least one core product and several awesome modules. The goals of this project are to develop a core handbook that will allow gamers and Game Masters to integrate non-violent methods of conflict resolution and stories that tackle conflict from different angles into their games. I’m all for dungeon crawls where enemies are not super 3 dimensional. That’s cool, and it totally has a place for all gaming groups. That being said, game masters and players also want the option of deep, immersive, and thought-provoking games that give them challenges and experiences that might not otherwise have. We are going to develop modules that incorporate elements of the handbook, for a variety of games. Love Pathfinder? Awesome, we’ll write a module for that. Love D&D 5th edition? Cool, we can do that too. Fate? World of Darkness? Savage Worlds? Sure, we are working on options for those and other games too.

RORPG has an element of education and social justice thought process built into it. I’m sure some people will have an issue with both of those elements. I’m ok with that. Let’s discuss it, let’s deconstruct it, and let’s make it better. This is not going to be created from the angle of an Edu-tainment product. It’s going to be a fun, enjoyable gaming experience that might help people play the way they want to act. This has been powerful for me in my life. Playing characters that exemplify how I want to be, is how I changed my life. I’ll save that story for another day, but truly, faking it till you make it, or for me, playing the character I wish I was, really changed my life. Social justice is something I think we as gamers should be able to understand implicitly. We spend hours, months, weeks, years of our lives living in the shoes of other people. I think we can incorporate some realistic challenges into our games that help us deepen that understanding. I do not want this to be preachy though, and will endeavor to avoid doing so. If you catch me making that mistake, please tell me and I’ll listen. I might still disagree, but I’ll listen.

I’ve shifted from We to I in this post. That is slightly unintentional but it is something to address. At the moment, Keep on the Heathlands is currently a 1 person project with support from others. As time goes on, I will look to create more We, more people helping and developing ideas and products for the page.

Here are some things on the horizon:

Web comic: I am currently talking with a friend about hosting, writing, and developing a web comic for the page.

Regular Columnists and Posts: I’ve already asked several folks to write for the Blog and some of them have said yes. I would like to encourage others that are interested in the mission of the Keep to reach out via Facebook or Twitter if they would like to write for us.

Podcasts and Vlogs: I’m going to be doing either one or both of these things to help discuss some of the ideas of the page, gaming in general, and the products we are developing.

Please leave comments at the bottom of the page or on Twitter or Facebook.



I’ve always liked Goblins. For some reason they were one of the races in Dungeons and Dragons which I always had a soft-spot. Perhaps it’s their small stature, I’m also short. Perhaps it was that they were always perceived as strange, hyper-active, or outside of the majority of societies in the main settings for D&D? I’m not sure, but something about goblinoids always intrigued me. I scrambled at the chance to make a Goblin character whenever I was given the option and I was happy when 3rd edition made it easier to play ‘monster races.’ Even better, for my love of Goblins, was a fully realized identity and depth of character background provided by the Eberron Campaign Setting. In Eberron, goblinoids are presented as once having a great empire that spanned the primary continent Khorvaire. They were no longer an imperial power, but they were present throughout the main story world, and they had carved out their own new nation in the wake of the Great War. Goblins are shown as protagonists and antagonists, they are rulers, servants, warriors, bards, poets, and historians. Basically, Goblins are living breathing character options.

So, why does this matter?

Keith Baker gave us an opportunity to see Goblins as more than villains, to see a world where things were not black and white, even if an alignment system exists in the game. Goblins are usually weaker than the player options usually presented and they often one of the first villains a D&D party has to face. That makes them boring to most players. The players sweep them off the table and forget about them. However, this dehumanizing element is not a great way forward. Goblins and other races can be used by Game Masters in a much more effective way. These groups can be brought into a game in a way that a shows respect to them and does not make them insta-villains or mooks to be killed without thought.

Here are a few ways to help do that, focusing on Goblins.

Give them a name: Instead of just calling them Goblins, call them the Darguul. Instead of calling them Goblin 1 and Goblin 2, they could be Karshuuk and Darmar of51gJBcGwaxL._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_ Clan Harchuuk. Giving them both a name for their people and individual names makes them more real, it makes them have a back story. Why are they the Darguul? Why do these two belong to this particular clan? Are all Goblins in clans? Do they have a history and clan structure that you can use in the future? All of these questions derive from the use of a name and they can help provide depth immediately. Even if you never flesh these characters out more than that, you’ve given them a little bit more life than you might have otherwise.

Describe them: Well… duh, right? This is a game played in the imagination of course I’m going to describe them, right? Sure, any good Game Master is going to describe her characters effectively. However, I’m talking about deep description at key moments. “Their long ears are tingling, tight to their heads. Their eyes are squinted and their mouths upturned with teeth exposed. You’ve made a major faux pas at the banquet, but you have no idea what you’ve done.” Goblins, like humans and other humanoid groups are highly expressive. Unlike humanoids, they have long ears, and those ears, as anyone with a dog or cat knows, tend to be major sources of body language expression. Add onto that a fully intelligent cultural group of beings and you have the opportunity to create all kinds of cultural nuance and meaning around their ears. This is easy to add in, just another brief description, but it can truly sell their reality as a separate, interesting group of beings to play or have within your world.

They aren’t all evil: Have your characters run into an adventuring party of goblinoids, not as enemies, but as fellow good adventurers. This isn’t just about flipping stereotypes, but it is also about showing a more realistic situation. Not everyone in a community is the same, not every group of people are identical and most are trying to do things that make their lives and the lives of their families better. A group of Goblin adventurers would have just as much interest in spelunking the dungeon in the hope of finding treasure as a group of halflings and humans. Have the party meet with the well to-do traveling salesman who happens to be a Hobgoblin. The more you incorporate goblinoids into your world as real thinking living beings the more the party will start to recognize them as such.

This is just a surface level of ideas and methods to bring Goblins into your games. The goal, in the end is to use the aspects of the race in a way that is interesting and engaging for your players. One great way to do that is to let a player, make a Goblin character. Let them help you fill out the background of the goblinoids in your world and give the chance to really bring them in to full vivid color.

Images used are the property of Paizo games and Wizards of the Coast respectively, their use here is in no way an attempt to claim ownership of those images, simply to show homage to their use of Goblins in their games and stories.


What do I mean by an inclusive gaming space? An inclusive gaming space is one where your players feel comfortable being there, engaging in the game, and having fun. This doesn’t mean the characters your players are playing always have to be happy. Hell, if we are playing mature higher level deep roleplaying games we know that sometimes our characters misery helps to drive a good story. A good story should not harm or hurt your players though and creating an atmosphere of inclusion at your table means finding ways to embrace diversity and be sensitive to the needs of your players. In the end, it comes down to this: know your players and be respectful to them as human beings. If a joke or a storyline goes too far, stop it, apologize, and debrief as soon as possible. This line will be in different places for different players and we’ll discuss some ways to keep on top of this below.

Set ground rules and follow them: Rules are essential to gaming, right? Every great rules lawyer can fight for hours over obscure rules in the books. Well, setting table rules is no different. These rules should be focused on player actions, words, and feelings, not character actions, words, or feelings. What are some examples of good ground rules? No sex jokes, no out of character comments on race or racism, talk about out of character conflicts as soon as they start, to help work through them, if something occurs in-character that you are uncomfortable with tell everyone (or just the GM) and the scene should end immediately. These rules should be discussed by the players and the storyteller before the game starts. They should be agreed on and added to if needed as well. A good storyteller checks-in with his players constantly to see what their characters are doing and how action is impacting them, a great and inclusive storyteller does the same with the players themselves.

Be Respectful of Everyone’s Background and Identity: Even when you are running a game at a convention or another public forum, you should try and have some understanding of who your players are. Take the time to ask questions, even 2-3 every session about the lives of your players. You aren’t doing this to interrogate them, but to be welcoming and helpful. If you know a player has had a bad week at work, give them a chance to work through some frustrations. If you know a player has experienced something traumatic in their background, be sensitive to stories that might remind them of that trauma and make their experience unpleasant. Again, I’m not saying you need to avoid difficult subjects in your game if that is what works for you and your players. I’m saying know them, be sensitive to them and make sure that the game you are running is the game that they want to play. This can include those that might not be playing, but hanging out around the table as well. You want to make your table a location to encourage the suspension of disbelief and to invigorate the imagination, being disrespectful has the opposite effect to that goal.

Make Your Characters and NPC’s Real: I don’t mean 3D print a model for all of your NPC’s… though if you are inclined in that direction I don’t see anything wrong with it. No, I’m saying make your characters real people; make them multi-dimensional with faults and goals and different identities. If you have an antagonist that is a woman, do not make her a stereotype. If you have an NPC that is trans, make them real, give them hopes and dreams and avoid the obvious jokes you think you might evoke at the table. The more you make your characters real, the more you respect the diversity at your table in every way. If you want to delve into issues of racism, sexism, and prejudice of all kinds in your game and your players are interested in doing so as well, do it, but do it with the goal of humanizing all creatures/people/monsters in the game.

Making your gaming table inclusive should not be a chore; it should be something that comes naturally to us. If we can empathize and imagine being magical beings and science fiction heroes, we should be able to imagine how it might be to be treated poorly for our identity in real life. Taking the time to respect and know your players and run the game that they love to play will drive more and more people into this hobby. If you have other suggestions on how to make your gaming table inclusive, please feel free to share them in the comments.

With 17 years of playing rpgs, Josh started with Mind’s Eye Theater LARPs and loves the World of Darkness. Josh is the administrator of the Inclusive Gaming Network on Facebook, is running both a Mage game and a Dark Ages: Vampire game at the moment, and is an advocate for inclusive gaming spaces. He’s also a father and a recent graduate from the International Peace and Conflict Resolution graduate program at American University in Washington, D.C.