Friday, May 31, 2024

Helpful Links for the LEGO RPG Jam

Hi everyone! I have two announcements about the ongoing Summer LEGO RPG Setting Jam, still open until July 8th. First, several people have reached out to me with links that might be helpful for anyone working on their own entry. And second, the first few entries have been submitted!
 
 
71469 Nightmare Shark Ship image source
 
I'll talk about those in just a moment. But first, my friend and colleague Prismatic Wasteland is also hosting an game jam this summer - the Barkeep Jam, which will be open from June 14th to August 14th, inviting you to add your own location (or other contributions) to the already-overflowing Barkeep on the Borderlands.
 
I wrote one of the original bars, but I'm going to try to come up with another to enter in the jam. I'm thinking of playing with the similar sounds in cocktail and cockatrice, although I'm not sure exactly where that will lead yet...
 
In the mean time, let's talk about Lego!
 
  
6494 Magic Mountain Time Lab image source

 
I have been using Brickset as my primary interface for locating and looking at older Lego sets. It's not the only way to search them, but I've found it very helpful.

Certified Lego fan Farmer Gadda has a few recommendations! First, Rebrickable is a site where people can post instructions for their own fan designs, reusing old pieces in new ways.

Next, Brick Owl is an online marketplace for buying and selling Lego pieces and minifigures.
 
BrikWars hosts a community of people who use Lego to play wargames. There's a complete ruleset, a wiki for lore, and forums where people talk about and post pictures of their games.

And the BrickLink Studio is a downloadable program from the official Lego website that allows 3D modeling of Lego pieces and sets, and can output .png files.

Knight at the Opera discovered that the official Lego website also has some great history articles, including accounts of the original Castle, Pirates, and Space lines, along with plenty of other topics.

I also got a great link from Mindstorm -  a really detailed overview of the Lego space factions from the 1990s and 2000s from the almost overwhelming Rambling Brick blog. This covers the period when I was most into Lego as a kid, as well as the time right afterward.

And finally, Prismatic Wasteland found a link to a review of the inspiring 1992 Lego catalog, and discovered that Brickset also has a way to browse old Lego catalogs, from 1966 to 2011.
 

4970 The Chrome Crusher image source

So far, there have been four contest entries (that I know of! if you've seen others, please share them in the comments!) 

The first past the finish line is Rise Up Comus, who wrote the Legojam Castle Hexcrawl. This is 27 hexes of medieval adventure, populated by people forced to reenact and relive the same heroic drama year after year, with only the player characters able to break free from the eternal recurrence of the same.

The aforementioned Farmer Gadda wrote Lego Adventurers Dino Island, which pits pulp-style explorers and criminals in a race against one another to capture a dinosaur before the volcano explodes...

Dr Curious VII went a different route and found monster designs from a Lego boardgame. In The Monster (Pod) Manual, DC7 offers ideas on how to describe and use 20 of these little beasties as roleplaying adversaries. I'd really like to encourage this kind of creativity! If you don't want to write a setting, but have another idea for adapting Lego to use with D&D, please know that you're welcome.
 
And in the most recent entry, for now, Tales of Escia gives us The Azure Archipelago, a 36 hex ocean setting where pirates, ghosts, and a royal navy all compete with ancient high-tech Atlanteans to find arcane crystals that will fuel their various factional goals.

There's still plenty of time to join the jam, and plenty of room for more ideas. Don't feel discouraged if you want to write something smaller, or if you too want to write about pirates or knights! I'd love to see what you can make!

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Summer LEGO RPG Setting Jam

I want to officially announce the start of the Summer LEGO RPG Setting Jam! The goal of this game jam is to design a small roleplaying game setting based on the Lego sets we enjoyed in our youth. The jam will run from Wednesday, May 8th to Monday, July 8th, 2024.

 
6075 Wolfpack Tower image source


What is the Summer LEGO RPG Setting Jam?

A few years ago, I wrote about how the Lego Castle sets that came out when I was a kid formed an important part of my fantasy imagination, and helped to shape what I want from fantasy roleplaying games. I know I’m not the only one who feels like this, and that childhood Lego sets continue to inspire many of us who enjoy designing and playing RPGs today.
 
So, the goal of this project is to design a small game setting based on a few Lego sets. I encourage you to draw on sets that you remember from your childhood - either ones you owned and enjoyed, or ones you saw and wanted but never got to play with. Now is your chance! 
 
(Since this is a celebration of Lego's original sets and settings, I think it will be more fun if we don't try to riff off of Lego's licensed interpretations of other company's characters.)
 
 
1492 Battle Cove image source
 
 
What Kind of Setting Should I Make?
 
Create a setting where the players can be heroes or scoundrels, and let them decide how to act. Set up rival factions with conflicting goals, make a powder keg, ready to explode, and hand the players a match they can strike. Give them a safe home base, a dungeon to delve, a wilderness to travel, monsters to fight. Make the game you want to play!
 
I encourage you to think small, to be expressive and concise, and to write a setting that will fit on 1-2 pages of 8½ × 11 paper when printed out. You can reference the game mechanics of your choice, or save space by leaving your setting systemless or system-neutral.
 
Anyone who uses your setting will have to do additional work to get it game-ready, so help them out by making something exciting and inspirational! Basic guidelines are more important than fine-grained distinctions. Be clear and coherent, use motifs and themes, and trust that the person running the game will make decisions that are shaped by the tools you've given them.
 
 
6878 Sub Orbital Guardian image source
 
  
How Do I Participate in the Game Jam?
 
Once you've created your setting, go ahead and put it online! If you have a blog, make it a post. Upload it somewhere as a pdf. Then, share your links here, as comments on this post!
 
Once the game jam closes on July 8th, I'll write a new compilation post that has links to all the entries. I'll also create a companion document that combines all the pdf entries into a single file.
 
I'm going to create a setting too! I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with!
 
 
6879 Blizzard Baron image source
 
 
Anything Else I Should Know?
 
Please credit the original Lego sets using their official names and set numbers. That way, everyone will know what inspired you, and anyone who likes your setting can look up the same sets you drew from.
 
Please do not include racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, antisemitism, or islamophobia in your entry. I reserve the right to not share or promote any game jam submission that I think is being used to harass or bully.

Lego trademarks of the LEGO Group. The names and images of all Lego products are copyrights of the LEGO Group and are used here without permission. All names and images of Lego products used here are intended to represent Fair Use under the 1976 Copyright Act. Their use is non-commercial, and is part of a transformative artistic project, which is not a substitute for the original products, and should not affect those products' value.

So please, share your Summer LEGO RPG Setting Jam entries in the comments below!

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Actual Play - Death by Dragon in The Incandescent Grottoes

My regular Friday night gaming group has been playing through Gavin Norman's The Incandescent Grottoes. It's a dungeon that's full of caverns of glowing crystals, which is what it's named for, and also classic D&D monsters like fungi, slimes, and the undead. And, oh yeah, a dragon!
 
Leighton Connor from Akashic Library volunteered to be our referee for this one, since he's run this particular adventure before, for a group of kids and teens. Peter Kisner from Fantasy Heartbreak Workshop is the other player besides me in this game. 
 
I want to shout out a fun incident that happened in one of our recent sessions. As ever in these kind of situations, it's not possible to tell this story without spoiling a few possible surprises from the adventure, although I've tried my best to keep that to a minimum.
 
After our initial party of four got cut in half by some early dangers, Peter and I each rolled up two characters to accompany Gone Girl the thief and Gildur the dwarf. One of my new characters became a terrible wizard, and I made the other into a pretty good elf. The elf got a bonus language, which I rolled to select at random, and the dice decided he knew how to speak Dragon. I decided to make that a focal point for his personality. I gave him magic missile as his lone spell, used his remaining cash after getting armor and weapons to buy oil, and named him Flamethrower. (The wizard also got a bonus language - Regional Dialect. Like I said, terrible.)
 
So, when our newly enlarged party learned that there might be a dragon living in one part of the dungeon, obviously I had Flamethrower suggest that we should go visit it, so he could try talking to it. Peter agreed, because why not? How often do you actually encounter the monster the game is named after? Plus, we hoped it would go well. I thought Flamethrower might be able to engage the dragon in conversation, offer to do it a favor in exchange for treasure, that sort of thing.
 
We experienced one ominous omen on our way to the dragon's lair - a random encounter with a shadow monster. This was a pretty tough fight. Gone Girl used her only silver arrow, Flamethrower used up his one casting of magic missile, and Gildur made very good use of the magic sword he found earlier. I can't honestly say that this encounter changed the outcome of what happened next, but like, it was a very bad sign, and depleted us of resources that theoretically could have been useful.
 
Okay, so we leave the tunnel and enter the cavern where we think the dragon will be. It's not there, but we see another tunnel exit at the far end. In a loud voice, Flamethrower starts declaiming a polite greeting, "Well met, noble dragon, allow me to extend our most felicitous greetings to your royal eminence," and so on.
 
The dragon Kramers into the room, rolling up looking absolutely crazed with hunger and fury. It turns out the thing has only bestial intelligence. It shouts the only phrase it knows "EAT YOU!" and lunges for us, causing everyone to try to scatter.
 
I imagine this dragon looking like this angry weirdo from Shin Godzilla

We all wanted to run away, but unfortunately, the dragon won the initiative, and let loose with its breath weapon - a cloud of knockout gas. Everyone lost their saving throw except for Peter's gnome, Schnoz, and they all fell unconscious to the floor.
  
It turns out there was one spell left that the party didn't cast when we were fighting the shadows, and Peter had Schnoz cast it now, an illusion spell called spook that inspires temporary terror. And, in what I can only describe as a Looney Tunes moment, it actually works! Picture Droopy the Dog holding up a grotesque Halloween mask, and this big angry dragon suddenly recoiling in horror and scampering away at top speed, whimpering like a scared dog.
 
Who knows what terror lurks in the hearts of dragons? The spook spell knows.

The spell has a very short duration, so we only had a couple combat rounds of safety while the dragon ran away, came to its senses, and then came thundering back, even angrier than before. Schnoz managed to wake up Gildur the dwarf, and they each lugged another character to safety by retreating down the tunnel we came in. They took lucky Gone Girl and Peter's third character, leaving my other two behind, including Flamethrower, because this was all his fault.
 
The dragon came back into its main lair and started savaging my two unconscious characters, I think starting with the terrible wizard. Schnoz tried to wake up the two he rescued we are still sleeping, but to no avail. Gildur lights a torch and throws it across the cavern onto Flamethrower's supine body. You'd think being lit on fire would wake him up, but no.
 
The dragon wins initiative again, finishes killing Flamethrower, and starts advancing toward the rest of the party. When the initiative passes to us players, the torch lights Flamethrower's collection of oil on fire, and he explodes in a giant ball of flame, harmlessly, a safe distance behind the dragon.

I should note that at no point have we made any attempt whatsoever to actually fight this thing. After our attempted diplomacy failed, Peter and I have just been trying to get our characters to run away. Everything that's happened so far has been based on saving throws and initiative rolls. The dragon didn't even need to roll to hit our unconscious characters, just for damage, and even that was mostly a courtesy, considering they're defenseless.
 
As the enraged dragon stomped toward them, Schnoz and Gildur lugged the other two down a side passage toward and underground river, hoping that the current would quickly carry us far enough away, as long as we could all float until we got to shore. In the first bit of good luck we'd had in awhile, the shock of the cold water woke the two sleepers up. 
 
Now, swimming in armor is dangerous. Gone Girl was wearing leather, and got lucky again, so she survived to make landfall with Schnoz and Peter's remaining character. Gildur the dwarf was wearing plate armor, and he did not get lucky, so he sank and drowned, taking the magic sword (which was almost our only treasure up to that point!) with him.
 
This session was an absolutely magnificent failure, and I loved it!
 
 

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

My 2023 in Review

This is my third annual Year in Review post, so I think I can officially consider it a tradition! Here are my favorite things from 2023.
 
 
The Best Things I Read
 
  
Fiction - Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
 
My favorite novel last year was Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, a work of literary fiction about two childhood friends who grow up to become video game designers together. The pair are very close friends as kids, then have a falling out and lose contact. They reconnect in college and begin making video games, first as class projects, later starting their own company and growing it into a major studio. They grow apart, then have another falling out. And then, tentatively, they begin to reconnect again. 
 
Parts of this book are very sad. The characters struggle with poor health and damaging romantic relationships, even as they find artistic and commercial success. The saddest part though, I think, is simply the very real pain of growing apart from someone you care about, or having a fight that means you don't talk to one another for years. Zevin did her homework on the video games too. The fictional games she describes sound realistic, and would be appropriate to each era. And impressively, the structure of each section of the book mirrors the game the friends are working on at the time. It was inspiring and encouraging to read.

My runners up this year are Corienne Hoex's Gentlemen Callers, which is like Invisible Cities, but for sex, literary and playful and phantasmic; and Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris by Leanne Shapton, which tells the story of a couple getting together and then breaking up entirely through objects, presented in the style of an auction catalog with photos and descriptive captions. Shapton accomplishes what every museum curator and dungeon designer hopes to, creating a narrative entirely through
 
 
Nonfiction - Islands of Abandonment
 
My favorite nonfiction book in 2023 was Islands of Abandonment by journalist Cal Flyn. Flyn visits and writes about places that humans no longer use, and looks at how the ecosystem has regrown and recovered there. In a few cases, the abandonment is for political or economic reasons, but mostly it's because of pollution or poison - these are places we've made so toxic that we can no longer work or live there. A recurring theme is that the simple fact of human occupation is worse for the local ecosystem than anything else we can do to it - worse even than tons of unexploded ordinance, buried neurotoxins, or radiation. 
 
The ecosystems that grow back represent a kind of feral nature, different from what was there before, or in any of the few remaining places we've never touched. Flyn shows places that were abandoned for many possible reasons, and that have recovered in different ways. If the future involves fewer people, or even just more efficient land-use, there will probably be more abandonment, and Flyn helps us imagine what that might look like. This is probably the most D&D-able book I read all year.
 
My runners up are Ace by Angela Chen, which offers a look at asexual identity, its complexities, and what it illuminates about other sexualities that we might otherwise not see; and Adam Nicolson's Life Between the Tides. Nicolson builds his own tidal pools and reports on the ecosystems in miniature that spring up inside, talks about the biology of some of the most common tidal species, and gives a history of the Irish coastal region where he's working. It felt like a unique and very holistic view of both the niche and the system that contains it.
 
 
  
Comics - Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow and Ducks (tie)
 
My favorite graphic novel this year collected the Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow miniseries, written by Tom King and illustrated by Bilquis Evely. It seems like DC might be giving each of their heroes a chance at standalone superhero adventures out in space, and if so, I am fully in support of this project. A young Supergirl goes to a planet with a red sun so she can get drunk when she celebrates her 21st birthday, and ends up on a star-hopping adventure with a young farm girl, who narrates the series, in tow. This is science fantasy at its finest, real sword-and-planet stuff, and I liked the contrast between the physically-powerful but emotionally immature Supergirl, and the politically-empowered criminal she pursues.
 
My favorite graphic nonfiction was Kate Beaton's Ducks. Beaton is best known for her whimsical Hark! A Vagrant comics, but her memoir of her two years working in the oil industry to pay off her student loans is a serious and mature work. Beaton's experiences with sexual harassment were harrowing and persistent; any counterbalance within the piece comes less from humor and more from the awe of nature and her briefer encounters with human kindness.
 
My runners up are the Forest Hills Bootleg Society in fiction, and Flung Out of Space, which is technically fiction but grounded in biography. In Forest Hills, Dave Baker and Nicole Goux give us a story about four girls at a Christian high school who try selling bootleg hentai movies to boys so they can buy cool jackets and hopefully the approval of their peers. You just know it can't end well. Space is about the author Patricia Highsmith, by Grace Ellis and illustrated by Hannah Templer, covering the period where Highsmith was working in comics, beginning to experience success from Strangers on a Train, trying to sell Carol, and struggling with her own lesbianism and the self-hatred from her internalized homophobia.
 
 
The Best Things I Watched
 
 
Live-Action Television - Kleo
 
My favorite live-action show in 2023 was the German revenge thriller Kleo. I'm beginning to realize that I might have a soft spot for revenge stories. Show me a righteously angry person willing to suffer unlimited punishment for the chance to murder their way up the org chart until they can confront and kill the boss who wronged them, and I am on the edge of my seat the whole time. In real life I'm a pacifist, but on film, the more brutal and morally complex the revenger is, the more I'm enthralled. And Kleo, the character, is enthralling. She's an East German spy, who got burned and sent to prison. Then, when the Wall comes down, she's released into the rapidly reunifying German, with exactly one goal - to find out who in her own government framed and imprisoned her, and make them pay. 
 
Kleo is delightfully unhinged, with tactics that made me wince even as I couldn't look away from them. It helps that the show itself is very aesthetically pleasing, with bright colors, excellent action sequences, and a soundtrack that mixes synths with 80s New Wave and actual Red Army patriotic music. And actress Jella Haase plays the role with the kind of manic enthusiasm we usually associate with Nicholas Hoult or Nick Cage - absolutely committed to a character who is sometimes terrifying, sometimes sympathetic, and always compelling.
 
My live-action runners up is Irma Vep, which is much more high-concept. It's a prestige miniseries about the making of a fictional prestige miniseries. The fictional miniseries is a remake of the 1915 French film serial Les Vampires, and the real show, Irma Vep, is also a kind of remake or sequel and expansion of an earlier film with the same name and same concept by the same director. But if you can sort of set all that real-life complexity aside, then Irma Vep is a behind-the-scenes look at how prestige tv gets made today, the way the artistic and creative ambitions of some of the people involved can use, be used by, or simply clash with the purely financial motivations of others, and a kind of surreal exploration of the lead actress - played by Alicia Vikander - getting back in touch with her identities as an artistic and romantic person after an ugly breakup and an unfulfilling starring role in a superhero blockbuster.
 
 
  

 
Anime - Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! and Sailor Moon (tie)
 
I only started consistently watching anime again in the last few years, and I feel like I'm embarrassed by the riches laid out before me as I sample some of the treasures from the past that I missed when they first came out. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is at least from this century, and like Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, it's about people making something they love. In this case, we follow three high school girls who form their own tiny animation studio as a club. Across the brief series, we see them make and screen three short films, and learn about each step of the process along the way. The characters dream of feature films and international success, but the show is realistic about how much work they have to do, and what kind of results they can produce.

What makes Eizouken really enjoyable is the absolutely irrepressible enthusiasm of the lead character, the bucket-hat-wearing Midori. She has an unstoppable imagination, looking at the real world and imagining it filled with robots and hovercrafts, and filling notebooks with drawings of her ideas. Midori imagines the kind of things I used to daydream about when I was a kid, and the way the show depicts them really captures the feeling of that childhood excitement; I've never seen it portrayed so accurately before, in any medium. The theme song is also a banger, and sets the mood with its infectious energy.
 
Eizouken has a somewhat non-traditional animation style, especially for anime, and it makes me want to shout out a few other short series I watched that used unconventional visuals, all of which I really enjoyed, including Kayba, Mononoke, and Fire Hunter.

My other favorite season 1 of the original Sailor Moon anime, the one that first aired in America television in the 90s, where I watched it sporadically after school. It turns out that my clearest memories are from the plant alien arc at the start of season 2, but my heart belongs to the first and best season, which in my opinion did the best job sharing the spotlight across the ensemble, and doesn't include Sailor Moon's difficult daughter from the future. An ordinary, imperfect high school girl discovers that she is also the superhero Sailor Moon, the guardian of an ancient Moon Princess, and defender of Earth against aliens who want to steal the life energy human teenagers, usually Sailor Moon's friends from school. As the show progresses, she meets a team of other guardians, and they become real friends out of costume too.
 
Yes, this is absolutely a formulaic, monster-of-the-week action show, but within that framework, there's a great deal of creativity and love that went into the series. The combat sequences, for example, often use a series of splashy still-frame images in lieu of full animation. This was almost certainly a cost-saving measure, but it's also an artistic choice, one that amplifies key moments in each fight, and the splash images are always really good. The show also deploys exaggerated, Looney Tunes style expressions to convey strong emotion; a deep knowledge of the art form and its history really shows through in those moments.

My runners up are Princess Jellyfish (for slice of life) and Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury (for action). Princess Jellyfish follows a group of nerdy girls who live together in an all-women apartment building. When the city starts threatening to tear it down to revitalize the district, the girls are forced to confront their shyness and social awkwardness to advocate for the building at government meetings. One of the girls also makes friend with a crossdresser (someone who, I wonder, might be portrayed as a trans girl if the show were made today) who helps her practice acting confident and assertive, even when she just wants to hide. That crossdresser reminds me a lot of myself when I was that age.

The Witch from Mercury is not in continuity with any other Gundam series, although it uses the same giant robots and the same conflict between humans who live on Earth versus humans who live in space. This series focuses on the students at an elite academy, mostly the children of the richest and most powerful government and corporate leaders in the solar system. A cold-war conflict among the adults is acted out among their kids in the form of ritualized dueling (with mechas, of course) and high school romances. The stakes continue to ratchet up throughout the series, until the system is right at the brink of a real hot war. And I really liked the central relationship between Suletta and Miorine.
 
 
  
Films - The Creator
Probably my favorite film of the year was The Creator, which is exactly the kind of scifi film I hope they'll make more of. It's an original story, but in conversation with other works about robots and AI; it's visually stunning, seamlessly mixing CGI with practical techniques to make something that looks much better than either could produce alone; and it has something relevant to say about the contemporary world that's not simplistic, trite, or nihilistic.

At the end of an alt-history 20th century, where sentient robots became citizens of every country in the world over the course of the 60s and 70s, America suffers a terrorist attack, an atomic detonation in LA that kills a million people, and responds by outlawing robotics, and waging a global war on robots and any country that harbors them. Visually, the scenes of combat in Southeast Asia are reminiscent of the Vietnam War, but everything else about the war is obviously inspired by the War On Terror. What The Creator makes you feel, viscerally, is that even after an incident as severe as that, America's reaction is a catastrophic over-reaction, and that killing civilians abroad will never make anyone any safer at home. I watched this film over the summer, but its portrayals of racism and unconstrained military violence are even more relevant now, as the Israeli military is engaged in mass killing in Gaza.

My runner up is Vesper, which has like, all the same good qualities as The Creator, just on a smaller scale. In the climate and genetic engineering post-apocalyse, the self-contained cities known as Citadels control the supply of seeds to anyone living outside, and they only sell crops whose own grains will be sterile, forcing the hinterlands to purchase new seeds every year. Vesper is an ambitious girl on the cusp of puberty. She wants to be a scientist and move into the city; her uncle who owns the farm next door wants to ensnare her in debt and take ownership of her body. Then a small personal airship leaving the nearest Citadel crashes within sight of the farms, and Vesper suddenly has a new opportunity, and new dangers. After Islands of Abandonment, this might be the second-most D&D-able thing I enjoyed this year! It's actually very easy to imagine a version of this film that's just a Western, albeit one that center's women's experiences on the frontier, but I think the science fictional elements are improvements, they make the film better, certainly better-looking, and more impactful.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

An Update on Jaquaysing

Since I wrote my previous post, my friend Ava Islam reached out to Justin Alexander and engaged him in a productive conversation. Once the two of them arrived at a place of understanding, Ava also reached out to me to mediate a conversation between me and Justin. The purpose of this conversation was for each of us to understand where the other was coming from, to see if we could find any common ground, and to reach a willingness to agree to disagree on the rest. I'm grateful to Ava for helping to facilitate this conversation.

You can read Justin's post that came out of this conversation here: A Second Note on Xandering. I encourage you to read it first, then come back here.

In brief, here's how we arrived at this point. In 1979, Jennell Jaquays wrote an early dungeon called Caverns of Thracia that people admired for its interesting nonlinear maps. In 2010, Justin Alexander wrote a series of essays praising Jennell's designs and describing the techniques others could use to draw similar ones. In those essays, Justin named the nonlinearity in those maps after Jennell. Last year, for a variety of reasons, including wanting to draw attention to his authorship of those essays, Justin announced that he'd like the process of drawing nonlinear dungeon maps to be named for himself rather than for Jennell, and he published a book collecting his writing where he used that new name. Earlier this year, Jennell died. And last week, I wrote the post below this note, condemning him for the renaming.

I think it's fair to say that Justin's announcement was broadly understood to mean that Jennell didn't want her name used to describe nonlinear dungeon mapping anymore, and that she either suggested Justin name it after himself, or endorsed his plan to do so. What Justin has said to Ava, and through her to me, is that this is a misunderstanding, and it wasn't his intention that people would take that meaning from what he wrote. His new post offers a much clearer recounting of events.

Jennell was okay with people using her name to describe nonlinear dungeons, as long as the process of drawing these maps was spelled correctly, as Jaquaysing, with an S. She did not want the term to be used with her name spelled incorrectly, without one.

Each person writing about these nonlinear dungeons can decide for themselves whether they want to call the process of drawing them Jaquaysing or Xandering. Justin will not be changing what he calls them, in his book, on his blog, or I guess whenever he talks about them. But if you want to call this process Jaquaysing, as I still do, you can use that term knowing that Jennell Jaquays was okay with you doing that. Whichever term you choose, I encourage you to make your case by setting a good example and being the sort of person others want to emulate, and not by picking fights with people who've made the other choice.

I appreciate that Justin has acknowledged that his initial announcement was misunderstood by many readers, and that he was willing to offer a clarification. It was misleading because people were misled; that does not mean it was intentionally misleading, or that he was trying to deceive.

My post was written in anger and came from a place of pain. After Jennell died, I had conversations with younger trans women in the scene who said they wanted to still use Jennell's name when talking about nonlinear dungeons. But they thought, based on reading Justin's announcement, that they couldn't, because they'd be disrespecting Jennell's wishes, some of her last wishes before she died, by doing so. These conversations were why I chose to write the post. I was afraid that Jennell might be forgotten, because the people who wanted to honor her mistakenly thought that meant they shouldn't talk about her. I didn't want that to happen. I was afraid, and angry, and I lashed out. I wanted to help protect Jennell's memory and legacy, because that's the only part of her that we in the roleplaying scene have left.

I phrased my arguments in my post very harshly. I thought that I was dealing with someone unreasonable, someone who would never listen to me or update what he'd written. I thought the only way people would continue using Jennell's name to describe drawing dungeons would be if I convinced them to. Because of Justin's willingness to engage in a dialogue with Ava, and through her to reach an understanding with me, because of his willingness to clarify what Jennell said, I now think that I misjudged him, and that some of what I said was unfair to him.

Justin has been in the online roleplaying scene for a long time. For years before I had a blog of my own, I followed other old-school bloggers, including him. The first time I ran a game that wasn't Hero Quest, I used Justin's one-page MC Escher dungeon as the adventure site. The first place I learned about Jennell Jaquays was reading about Caverns of Thracia's maps on Justin's blog, either just because I was reading it regularly, or because I saw a reference and a link somewhere else, and followed it back to Justin's essays.

Justin has not plagiarized Jennell. He has not stolen from her. He does not deserve to lose his job or have his book withdrawn from publication. Someone who sees the word Xandering somewhere online and wonders what it means will likely end up at Justin's blog, and at his essays where he holds up Jennell's nonlinear dungeon maps as exemplars. Although he edited those posts to change the name of the term to Xandering, all other references to Jennell remain intact. In these essays, he credits her as the originator of the style he's describing. And since he is the author of the essays, I agree that he deserves to be acknowledged for his analysis. Readers of Justin’s book will also see Jennell mentioned in the acknowledgments.

Justin also, obviously, finished writing his book before Jennell got sick. The timing of her illness meant that she wasn't able to comment on Justin's announcement or to clarify her position herself. That means that the responsibility to clarify falls on Justin, and in his most recent post, he has fulfilled that responsibility. The timing reflects an unfortunate coincidence, but he picked the date of the announcement based on the publication schedule, not with the intention of taking advantage of her.

In my post, I also described Jennell's illness inaccurately. She was not in a coma at the time of Justin's announcement, as I said. She was very ill then, and my understanding of what it means that she was previously on a ventilator is that she was in a medically-induced coma while she was on it. She was not able to keep up with or comment on anyone's D&D blog at that time. But at the time of Justin's announcement, Jennell was healthier than I said, and I want to correct that now.

Again, I appreciate that Justin has written a clearer account of events, and has helped to ensure that people know that she continued to be alright with people using her name, and calling drawing nonlinear dungeon maps Jaquaysing. That account, that assurance, is what I wanted most, and I thank Justin for providing it. I know this past week has been difficult for him. I also thank Ava for reaching out to me, and helping to at least partially resolve the conflict.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Xandering is Slandering

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Since I wrote this post, my friend Ava Islam reached out to Justin Alexander and engaged him in a productive conversation. Once the two of them arrived at a place of understanding, Ava also reached out to me to mediate a conversation between me and Justin. The purpose of this conversation was for each of us to understand where the other was coming from, to see if we could find any common ground, and to reach a willingness to agree to disagree on the rest. I'm grateful to Ava for helping to facilitate this conversation.

You can read Justin's post that came out of this conversation here: A Second Note on Xandering. I encourage you to read it first, then come back here.

In brief, here's how we arrived at this point. In 1979, Jennell Jaquays wrote an early dungeon called Caverns of Thracia that people admired for its interesting nonlinear maps. In 2010, Justin Alexander wrote a series of essays praising Jennell's designs and describing the techniques others could use to draw similar ones. In those essays, Justin named the nonlinearity in those maps after Jennell. Last year, for a variety of reasons, including wanting to draw attention to his authorship of those essays, Justin announced that he'd like the process of drawing nonlinear dungeon maps to be named for himself rather than for Jennell, and he published a book collecting his writing where he used that new name. Earlier this year, Jennell died. And last week, I wrote the post below this note, condemning him for the renaming.

I think it's fair to say that Justin's announcement was broadly understood to mean that Jennell didn't want her name used to describe nonlinear dungeon mapping anymore, and that she either suggested Justin name it after himself, or endorsed his plan to do so. What Justin has said to Ava, and through her to me, is that this is a misunderstanding, and it wasn't his intention that people would take that meaning from what he wrote. His new post offers a much clearer recounting of events.

Jennell was okay with people using her name to describe nonlinear dungeons, as long as the process of drawing these maps was spelled correctly, as Jaquaysing, with an S. She did not want the term to be used with her name spelled incorrectly, without one.

Each person writing about these nonlinear dungeons can decide for themselves whether they want to call the process of drawing them Jaquaysing or Xandering. Justin will not be changing what he calls them, in his book, on his blog, or I guess whenever he talks about them. But if you want to call this process Jaquaysing, as I still do, you can use that term knowing that Jennell Jaquays was okay with you doing that. Whichever term you choose, I encourage you to make your case by setting a good example and being the sort of person others want to emulate, and not by picking fights with people who've made the other choice.

I appreciate that Justin has acknowledged that his initial announcement was misunderstood by many readers, and that he was willing to offer a clarification. It was misleading because people were misled; that does not mean it was intentionally misleading, or that he was trying to deceive.
 
The post below was written in anger and came from a place of pain. After Jennell died, I had conversations with younger trans women in the scene who said they wanted to still use Jennell's name when talking about nonlinear dungeons. But they thought, based on reading Justin's announcement, that they couldn't, because they'd be disrespecting Jennell's wishes, some of her last wishes before she died, by doing so. These conversations were why I chose to write the post. I was afraid that Jennell might be forgotten, because the people who wanted to honor her mistakenly thought that meant they shouldn't talk about her. I didn't want that to happen. I was afraid, and angry, and I lashed out. I wanted to help protect Jennell's memory and legacy, because that's the only part of her that we in the roleplaying scene have left.

I phrased my arguments in this post very harshly. I thought that I was dealing with someone unreasonable, someone who would never listen to me or update what he'd written. I thought the only way people would continue using Jennell's name to describe drawing dungeons would be if I convinced them to. Because of Justin's willingness to engage in a dialogue with Ava, and through her to reach an understanding with me, because of his willingness to clarify what Jennell said, I now think that I misjudged him, and that some of what I said below was unfair to him.

Justin has been in the online roleplaying scene for a long time. For years before I had a blog of my own, I followed other old-school bloggers, including him. The first time I ran a game that wasn't Hero Quest, I used Justin's one-page MC Escher dungeon as the adventure site. The first place I learned about Jennell Jaquays was reading about Caverns of Thracia's maps on Justin's blog, either just because I was reading it regularly, or because I saw a reference and a link somewhere else, and followed it back to Justin's essays.

Justin has not plagiarized Jennell. He has not stolen from her. He does not deserve to lose his job or have his book withdrawn from publication. Someone who sees the word Xandering somewhere online and wonders what it means will likely end up at Justin's blog, and at his essays where he holds up Jennell's nonlinear dungeon maps as exemplars. Although he edited those posts to change the name of the term to Xandering, all other references to Jennell remain intact. In these essays, he credits her as the originator of the style he's describing. And since he is the author of the essays, I agree that he deserves to be acknowledged for his analysis. Readers of Justin’s book will also see Jennell mentioned in the acknowledgments.

Justin also, obviously, finished writing his book before Jennell got sick. The timing of her illness meant that she wasn't able to comment on Justin's announcement or to clarify her position herself. That means that the responsibility to clarify falls on Justin, and in his most recent post, he has fulfilled that responsibility. The timing reflects an unfortunate coincidence, but he picked the date of the announcement based on the publication schedule, not with the intention of taking advantage of her.

In my post, I also described Jennell's illness inaccurately. She was not in a coma at the time of Justin's announcement, as I said. She was very ill then, and my understanding of what it means that she was previously on a ventilator is that she was in a medically-induced coma while she was on it. She was not able to keep up with or comment on anyone's D&D blog at that time. But at the time of Justin's announcement, Jennell was healthier than I said, and I want to correct that now.

Again, I appreciate that Justin has written a clearer account of events, and has helped to ensure that people know that she continued to be alright with people using her name, and calling drawing nonlinear dungeon maps Jaquaysing. That account, that assurance, is what I wanted most, and I thank Justin for providing it. I know this past week has been difficult for him. I also thank Ava for reaching out to me, and helping to at least partially resolve the conflict. END AUTHOR'S NOTE.

 
 
Jennell Jaquays - image source
 
 
On January 10, 2024, the game designer Jennell Jaquays died. She was a woman of many accomplishments, who published one of the earliest and most highly regarded fantasy roleplaying adventures, The Caverns of Thracia. Jennell's loss is a great sadness to those who knew her personally.
 
It's also a loss to trans women in gaming, people like me, for whom Jennell's example of how to be out, successful, and admired served as an inspiration, and as a reminder that we have a place, we belong, in a hobby and an industry that can sometimes seem quite hostile to our existence. Even those of us who didn't know her knew of her, and we could look to her as an exemplar, and as someone whose presence cultivated a safer space.
 
Every trans woman I know in gaming has been affected by her loss. But in addition to being sad, I'm also angry, because there's someone in the old-school roleplaying scene who's been trying to minimize Jennell's accomplishments and to claim credit for some of her ideas and her work. At a time when Jennell Jaquays should be remembered and celebrated, he's trying to erase her.
 
That person is Justin Alexander, author of the blog The Alexandrian, and the recently published book So You Want to be a Gamemaster.
 
You might be surprised to hear this, because you might be familiar with Justin's earlier article praising Jennell for her dungeon design, and naming the process of introducing non-linearity into game maps after her. That article is available at this link: http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/13085/roleplaying-games/jaquaying-the-dungeon. Before you continue, I encourage you to click on that link, so that you'll understand what I'm talking about.
 
"Xandering the Dungeon" - image source

You may be wondering why a post that's supposedly about a trans woman's contributions to gaming is now named for the cisgender man who wrote the post. I find myself wondering that as well. 
 
Unfortunately, despite sometimes celebrating Jennell's ideas, Justin has a mixed history when it comes to dealing with her as a person. Both the supposed reasoning and the timing behind the of rebranding Jennell's designs as things Justin credits himself for are particularly galling. But he has a history of attempting to put himself ahead of her that I want to review first, before I explain more of why this latest incident is so upsetting.
 
 
A Brief Timeline of "Jaquaysing the Dungeon"
 
In 2010, Justin Alexander published what would become one of the most famous posts on his blog, "Jaquaying the Dungeon" [sic]. It was the first post in a six-part series, and it arguably helped to establish Justin's reputation among bloggers in the old-school roleplaying scene. Because people like the way Jennell draws her dungeons, the term caught on, and drove innumerable clicks, links, and citations in Justin's direction. 
 
In my view, Justin's fame relies on Jennell far more than Jennell's fame relies on Justin. As a co-founder of the first D&D fanzine, as the creator of the second ever published adventure, as an author of several of Judge's Guild's most popular projects, Jennell was essentially guaranteed to be admired by people looking into the early history of Dungeons & Dragons. Justin was not the only, or even the first, person to talk up the quality of her designs. Justin started out blogging about 3e and Monte Cook's Ptolus dungeon. He probably would have found success in the old-school scene when he turned his attention toward it, but writing about Jennell, and coining the terms "jaquaying" [sic], lent Justin credibility within the scene beyond what his his own work so far had accomplished.
 
It's also worth noting, Jennell's last name is spelled Jaquays, with an S, and so the correct spelling of any term named after her should have that S as well, whether you say to Jaquays as a verb, Jaquaysing as a gerund, or Jaquaysian as an adjective. Which means that even though he might have been the first to coin the term, Justin also misspelled it. Yes, that's possible. You can be the first and still be wrong.
 
At the time Justin wrote this first blog post, Jennell had not publicly come out as trans or adopted the name Jennell. By her own account, Jennell first came out to her followers on Facebook in December 2011, and on her professional website in March 2012. 
 
I don't know exactly when Justin found out about Jennell's gender transition or her new name, although I'll note that he links to her site, where she made the announcement, in the first paragraph of his blog post, and that a comment mentioning Jennell's correct name shows up as early as September 2014. Over the next couple years, Justin must have become aware of Jennell's transition and, rather than editing his post to correct it, he became defensive about his decision not to make the correction. In October 2016, he published "Thought of the Day - Deadnames", where he laid out a six-part defense for his refusal to update the original post to include Jennell's correct name.

I find Justin's arguments here to be made in bad faith. He relies on a variety of hypotheticals and counterfactuals to justify his ongoing refusal to go into a handful of blog posts and hit CTRL H to find and replace the few instances of a single word with another. He says that it would be prohibitively difficult to make such a change to a video, that he'd be unable to make the change if he was already dead, incorrectly compares Jennell's name to a performer's stage name, says that since no one can find every copy of Jennell's published works and put stickers over her old name in them there's no point in making any changes anywhere, and then notes that if she were living stealth he'd be unnecessarily outing her by editing his post. This last claim is particularly dishonest, since Jennell came out as publicly as she was able, and yet he framed his refusal to honor her identity as some kind of favor he was doing for her, as though he was helping her keep a secret, instead of hiding information she wanted shared.

In February 2018, Jennell commented on this blog post to request that Justin update her first name and correct the spelling of the term to match her last name. Sometime later that year, Justin did edit his original post to use Jennell's correct first name. He did not, ever, honor her request to spell Jaquaysing correctly.
 
Jennell's 2018 comment - image source
 
 
The Historical Revisionism of Xandering
 
In May 2023, Justin announced that he had a book deal to republish some of his old blog posts, along with new content, as the book So You Want to be a Dungeon Master? His announcement includes information about some of the bookstores that will be offering his work, and it's clear that he's hit the big time. Instead of self-publishing or having his work only available on gaming websites, it'll be online and on the shelves of all the major chains. Justin could reasonably expect the success of this book to boost his profile and introduce him to new audiences.

In the process of shepherding this project to completion, it appears that Justin also decided to do some reputational management. At some point, the "Thought of the Day - Deadnames" post disappears from his blog. The Wayback Machine's most recent capture is from January 2020; Roger SG Sorrolla references it in an essay written in December 2021 that was published in Knock 3. I assume Justin took down the post because he realized he appears in an unflattering light in it, and wanted to hide what he'd done.

He went further than that though. In November 2023, Justin put out a new post called "A Historical Note on Xandering" stating his intention to rename Jaquaysing after himself and to start calling it "Xandering". Going further, he republished the original post from 2010 with a new URL and a new title, as "Xandering the Dungeon". He deleted his original post about Jaquaysing, and set his blog to redirect the original link to the new post with his name on it.
 
In both these posts, Justin mentions Jennell and admits that he was looking at and thinking about her dungeon designs when he wrote them. And anyone who is already familiar with Jennell will remember the truth. But Justin's attempt to claim credit for himself is clear. If someone has only read his book, or seen "Xandering" referenced in conversation online, those new audience members aren't going to know about Jennell Jaquays, and they're no longer going to have an easy window into finding out more about her. Instead, they'll just known Justin Alexander.
 
"The Internet" by Nedroid - image source
 
 
Jaquaysing is the Correct Term 
 
If we want to talk about designing non-linear dungeon maps, maps that resemble those drawn by Jennell Jaquays, we can call that Jaquaysian dungeon design, in the same way we might talk about Vancian magic, Gygaxian naturalism, Dickensian characterization, Euclidean geometry, or Kafkaesque bureaucratic strangeness. Someone was the first person to make each of those stylistic comparisons, and in a fair world, each of those people would get some kind of credit for noting those characteristics. But what we would never do is name the style for that person.
 
If you wanted to talk about this kind of dungeon design without naming Jennell directly, you might refer to it as Thracian, after the name Jennell chose for her most famous dungeon that used it. It's the same way that we refer to certain detectives as Holmesian without directly mentioning Arthur Conan Doyle, or describe a monster as Cthulhuesque without saying the name Lovecraft. But no matter how many books ST Joshi writes describing the characteristics of HPL's writing, we'll still never refer to cosmic horror fiction as Joshian instead of Lovecraftian. And that's the crucial difference here.

So if you want to talk about nonlinear dungeons in a way that honors a person instead of just the idea of nonlinearity, you should call them Jaquaysian, or the process of making them Jaquaysing. If you say "Jaquaying" [sic], you're acknowledging the right person, but spelling her name and the term wrong. There is no reason to ever say Xandering, unless you want it to mean something like, trying to take credit for someone else's ideas while simultaneously X-ing them out of history and slandering their memory. But you could probably simply call that plagiarism, appropriation, vainglory, or just dishonesty.

The Caverns of Thracia, level 1 by Jennell Jaquays - image source
 
 
Justin Alexander's Bad Faith Arguments
 
As with his stated reasons for not removing Jennell's old name from his original post, I find Justin's explanations for trying to credit himself by using the term "Xandering" to be in bad faith. The truth, I think, is simply that he wants credit and praise. He expects to reach a new audience of people who won't know this history, and he hopes they'll think only of him. He's no longer satisfied for people to link to his blog while using Jennell's name; now he wants his name to be the only one people use. But those are base motives, and he would look bad if he admitted to them, so instead, he again tries to frame his self-serving as something high-minded.
 
First, note that he falsely declaims his own responsibility for this decision. "In 2023, for better or for worse, this term was changed to xandering." It was changed by him; he changed it. But he doesn't say that. He uses the passive voice. Not that he did it, but that it was done. By whom? Unstated. And look, he seems to empathize, maybe it wasn't even a good change. Of course he thinks it was good, or he wouldn't have done it. But twice in one sentence he minimizes his responsibility for doing it. 
 
Later he has other fall guys to put the blame onto. The internet mob, they forced his hand, what else could he do? His lawyer's advice, how could he go against it? It's telling that in any scenario where the reader might think the change was for the worse, Justin fobs responsibility off onto others. He tries to forestall disagreement by presenting this as a fait accompli, a thing that has already happened and can't be reversed or undone. This is nonsense, since at the time that he wrote this, literally no one else had used the term "Xandering" yet at all. And anyway, that's not how culture works. It's always contentious, always changeable.
 
There's one more reason Justin states for the change, and only here does he paint himself as the agent of his own actions. "Jennell Jaquays wanted a change. She didn’t like that the term dropped the 's' from her name. Her name is very important to her. This wasn’t a problem. In fact, Jennell had previously requested some sweeping changes to the article for similar reasons, and I’d made those changes." The sweeping change he mentions was finally replacing the 3-4 places where he'd used her old name. He's sure to let us know how arduous this was, to press CTRL F and then type in seven new letters. He assures us that adding the S was even more difficult. (So much harder than using a totally different word!) But, he says, she asked, so he did it. Except he didn't. He never edited his blog to spell Jaquaysing correctly. For god's sake, he doesn't even spell it that way in this very post where he's claiming he did! 

But Justin's point here is that he's doing something Jennell wanted, something she asked for. "I spoke with Jennell earlier this year. We both agreed that the name should be changed, and I said it would be a large project to do it, but I’d make sure it happened by the end of the year." Now here he commits a bit of sleight of hand. Remember that what Jennell asked for was for "Jaquaying" [sic] to be spelled Jaquaysing. But in this sentence, Justin doesn't actually say what the change was that they agreed on. Then he mentions talking to his publisher, and to his lawyer. Then he says "After a bunch of back-and-forth, we finally settled on the term 'xandering.' ", and in this sentence, he doesn't clarify which of the three parties he's been talking to the "we" refers to. So this is Justin's magic trick. Jennell asks him to spell her name correctly. His publisher agrees to his request to call the term "Xandering." But without directly stating it - and thus without explicitly lying - he manages to imply that it was Jennell who asked him to replace Jaquaying [sic] with "Xandering". It was her idea, he says, he's doing it for her.
 
 
Xandering is Slandering
 
Part of why Justin was able to get away with this, with putting his name on Jennell's idea and then claiming she wanted him to do it, because at the time that he wrote that, Jennell was no longer able to contradict him. Justin posted "A Historical Note on Xandering" on November 1, 2023. But at that time Jennell was in a coma, because she had Guillain Barre Syndrome, which her wife announced on GoFundMe. This fact was reported in the gaming news, and widely reshared on social media. Justin knew this; he included the link in his post. On November 21, 2023, So You Want to be a Dungeon Master? went on sale in bookstores across the country. And on January 10, 2024, Jennell Jaquays died.
 
I'm sure that Justin had been planning to introduce the term "Xandering" since before Jennell got sick. I'm sure he would have gone forward with his plan even if Jennell had publicly asked him not to. But because of Jennell's illness, Justin was now free to claim more or less anything he wanted, and the public would have to take his word for it, because he was the only witness to these events able to speak up. I think this is ghoulish. I think it's grotesque.

I don't know what Jennell thought in private. I have no personal communication with her to relay. But I know what she said in public, over and over again. She wanted Jaquaysing to be spelled correctly, with the S, and she continued making this request, even as Justin Alexander continued ignoring it. There was no principled reason for him to do that then, just stubbornness and a refusal to admit he was wrong. There's no principled reason for him to do what he's doing now. Self-aggrandizement isn't a principle.
 
We've seen what Jennell said in her comment on Justin's blog about him using her old name. She's said the same thing on Facebook and Twitter, really in any public forum where she's had a voice. (Thank you to Humza K for helping me to find so many of the times Jennell spoke about this.)
 
"Was watching a random Youtube video about adventure design last night
when the youtuber mentioned 'Jaquaying the Dungeon' as part of the process.
I've been aware I'm a verb for about the last 10 years,
and I appreciate that reference from Justin Alexander.
But it still annoys the crap out of me that it's not 'Jaquaysing the Dungeon.'

Dammit people, that 'S' has been there all my life. It's definitely been part of my family's
surname for over 250 years. Please, I expect misproununciations,
but can you just respect the original spelling when referring to me?
 
It's not too late to correct it... EVERYWHERE."

   
 
 
"Did you know that your last name has become a verb Jennell Jaquays?"
"Yes, I did know this. Bumped into it about 8 years ago.
Though by rights it should be 'Jaquaysing' the dungeon."
 image source

 
 
"Though I kinda wish they would revise it to 'Jaquaysing the Dungeon'
because you know, correct spelling? I may use the editorial 'We' at times,
but that doesn't mean I am plural."
image source

 
There is a world of difference between what Jennell has said, which is that she was fine with the term but wanted it to be spelled properly, and what Justin is trying to claim, which is that she didn't like the term, and that therefore, for her sake, he's gallantly renamed it after himself.
 
 
What Now?
 
I don't expect that Justin will respond to me about this, or even acknowledge that he's seen what I've written. I don't expect writing this to have any effect on his book sales or his reputation with audiences who are new to D&D and have never heard of Jennell Jaquays before.
 
Justin, if you are reading this, you did a basically good thing in 2010 when you drew people's attention to something that someone else had done well. And then you've progressively shit all over that one kind action over the years. I wish you'd stop. Right now you're behaving like an actual grave robber. I hope you'll have a change of heart. And if your book is fortunate enough to have a second printing, I hope you'll go back to talking about Jaquaysing. And that you'll spell it correctly from now on.
 
I ask that anyone who's reading this refrain from harassing Justin on social media. It's wrong, and it won't accomplish anything. He already claims to feel persecuted and to feel justified in his actions because of that persecution. More will only further entrench his decision.
 
If you want to take actions that might benefit Jennell's family, you can contribute to the GoFundMe that will help pay for her medical and funeral costs. If you knew Jennell personally, you can share a memory on her obituary page. If you feel inclined, you can volunteer to participate in the Jennell Jaquays Memorial Game Jam, and after the jam is completed, you can purchase Return to Perinthos, which will initially support Jennell's family, and later donate its proceeds to the charity Trans Lifeline.
 
You can carry on Jennell's gaming legacy, and help prevent her erasure, by continuing to talk about Jaquaysian and Thracian dungeon designs. Again, harassing people who say "Jaquaying" [sic] or "Xandering" would be wrong, and wouldn't honor Jennell's memory. But you can set a good example, tell the truth, play the game she loved, draw the kind of nonlinear maps like she was famous for, and help make sure that people remember her name.
 
And if you know a trans woman, whether as part of your gaming hobby, or in any other part of you life, be kind to her. The loss of one of our foremothers is very far from being the only problem that we, collectively, are facing right now.