Community Praxis

Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized. Praxis may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas.

One of the things that I find to be true across my experiences in tabletop discourse is that while there are a lot of good conversations about how to handle things, it doesn’t translate to any sense of community praxis.

The cycle seems to be that we have a good discourse and ask questions about the tabletop world and the assumptions we make within it (here are some of mine for example), have a good talk about the many ways we can re-imagine things that have been built, and then… well… we just stop.

The most common retort to this is “Well, everyone is free to do what they want at their tables…” and that is true, but then we run into a snag. That being a number of instances where someone does something that’s wrong – like ignoring player agency – but with nothing to point to at the level of the community at large for accountability.

The offenses are numerous (and often egregious), but without that larger sense of community praxis, you’re just more prone to these errors by default unless/until you find yourself with a group of people – usually marginalized identities – that expand your horizons regarding the considerations you need to make in the way your games work.

For example: the use of safety tools, the use of passive scores, the best types of conflict to use in a story and which to avoid, the practice of pre-session and after-session care to mitigate bleed among players and the DM, the best way to take dated concepts and move things forward.

And that’s the thing here: without that solid core of things around which we can build better practice in how we implement games at our table across genres and subject matter, the more difficult it is to move the whole game forward.

So you get the same settings for near 50 years (and the same problematic elements in each one) with little to no variation and resistance to any kind of changes like this one by Gabe. It usually winds up with conversations like this one.

“But a praxis already exists. It is called the Players Handbook.”

Someone who doesn’t know I will read while wearing transition lenses, 2020

Not only are you wrong, but the wrongness is proven almost immediately by the sheer amount of homebrew versions of everything that exist. Classes, races, settings, and rules.

There are many points to be made around that fact (like this one by Orion) but the main one I want to make here is that if there were any level of communal movement around these things, we would have a game better positioned to:

  • Pivot on what it does well
  • Set aside what it doesn’t do well
  • Evolve on both axes as needed

But how do we develop one?

So Where Does This Leave Us?

This is a tough question because, as things stand, there are those who see no reason for D&D to even change let alone progress. If you don’t believe me, ask about how we handle Orcs.

Spoiler: it gets rough.

Maybe it starts with this essay in its 1000000000000000000000000000000th iteration or maybe enough non-cishet and non-white combine and intersect and we bring the whole house crashing down while building something better. Bits of this have happened. Are happening. Will happen.

For now, I’ll have to settle for a growing list of twitter bookmarks.