RPG History: Playing at the World, Part I

As mentioned before, I’ve been reading Jon Peterson’s Playing at the World. It’s been wonderful so far, with a few frustrations, but mostly just shedding light where I’d only heard rumors before.

The book is quite big, and although I’m not the fastest reader, I’ve been working through it quite quickly. Peterson uses a semi-academic prose style that avoids dryness while also mostly staying objective. Plus, of course, the subject matter is fascinating, and my curiosity is a strong motivator.

History is a complex subject, and the evolution of D&D is not a simple matter to cover, so the organization of the book is necessarily complex. The book has only five chapters: “A Prelude to Adventure” (primarily an introduction to wargames and an overview of the development of D&D), “Setting: The Medieval Fantasy Genre”, “System: The Rules of the Game”, “Character: Roles and Immersion” and “The Dawn of Role-Playing”, plus introduction, epilogue, bibliography and notes. It is difficult to fully analyze any one thread in the tapestry that is the invention of RPGs without also pulling at other threads, so the book is scattered with “more on this in the next section”-type comments. This can be frustrating at times, but I can’t think of a better way to organize a prose book. (A wiki might conceivably work better.)

I have two other frustrations so far. (I’ve only gotten up to page 260 or so at this point.) One, Peterson aspires to academic prose, but frequently allows subjective editorializing and colloquial writing to mar the narrative. Here are a few examples:

These pacifist dalliances proved less successful, however, than games in the bellicose mold of Tactics(p. 57)

“Pacifist” could arguably not be biased, but “dalliance” surely is. Or, if it’s self-deprecation (making light of geeky pastimes), then it feels like nerd self-loathing.

Ineffectual copyright protection… further curtailed profits from sales. (p. 230)

There are a lot of modern copyfighters who would argue with the notion that profitability requires strong copyright law. This isn’t a central point of Peterson’s book, of course; but why assert such a thing in the first place? Editorializing like this distracts from the history woven through the book.

…throughout his all-too-short career Lovecraft never found a superior vehicle for his work. (p. 247)

Again, why the editorializing? Why say “all-too-short” instead of just “short”?

Harold Shea… entered these stories by means of the unfortunately-named ‘syllogismobile… (p. 258)

Use of the term “unfortunately” feels very out of place in academic writing.

Peterson isn’t, I think, trying for purely objective, disinterested, academic prose. He’s clearly coming from the position of someone who loves and appreciates RPG history, and that is a big part of the book’s appeal: it is clearly a work of love. But I wish he could keep just that bit further towards objectivity.

The second problem I’ve noticed is insufficient sourcing. Peterson frequently states things as fact without giving a citation or proof for the statement:

Combatants in medieval wargames are typically armored melee units, mounted or on foot, who favored swords and shields and the support of distant bowmen. (p. 92)

(Emphasis mine.) I mean, yes, they probably typically are armed that way, but it still feels like something that would get a “citation needed” tag in Wikipedia.

…lycanthropes… of whom Beorn the were-bear of The Hobbit was a likely prototype… (p. 131)

Likely? Perhaps, but I’d need to see documentation from Gygax and Perren to believe it. As it is, Peterson doesn’t give any support to his assertion.

Tony Bath took up the cause of campaigning in wargames with his Hyborian campaign, rightfully seen as the progenitor of modern miniature wargame campaigns. (p. 148)

The use of “rightfully”, here, feels like both an unsupported assertion and a bit of editorializing. Again, more historical support would be good.

It was in this lively column that science fiction acquired one of its defining characteristics… a fandom. (p. 244)

It’s extremely hard to pinpoint any one location as the birthplace of fandom; if Peterson has more proof that Amazing Stories truly was where SF fandom began, I’d love to see it! Perhaps he’s referring to a study that proved this? If so, it remains uncited.

I’m reading the book in electronic form, and it’s certainly possible that the hard copy has more notes. In the electronic edition, there are endnotes — they don’t provide enough historical support to fill in the gaps, however, and they make me think that the paper edition doesn’t have sufficient support, either.

Mostly, these objections are a wish to strengthen an already great book. It feels like Peterson has textual or oral history that supports (for example) the idea that Gygax and Perren derived their ideas of lycanthropes from Tolkien, but because nothing is provided in the book, it feels like a gap in the otherwise wonderful narrative. It’s more a case of wanting more of his scholarship than of wanting less.

And I’ve been wanting more because the book truly is engaging and enlightening. At numerous points, I’ve found myself saying “Yes!” or “I’ve always wondered about that…” For example, over the years, I’ve heard occasional murmurs about Dave Wesley (sp? Peterson spells it differently in his blog) and the Braunstein games that led up to D&D, but having read the descriptions in Playing at the World, I feel like I really know how they worked and what they were about.

As another example, the book also gives a good sense of what Arneson contributed to D&D, and what Gygax did, relating a lot of facts without getting too far into this very partisan issue. And there are many other wonderments. The discussion of the early history of GenCon is fascinating. Peterson adeptly paints the landscape of early SF&F magazines, and which authors produced what. And it seems that most times I’ve seen a tantalizing name mentioned, within a few paragraphs Peterson had solved several important mysteries.

Also, and this is less of a mystery than just something I really appreciate, he uses a trope-based definition of fantasy: “the presence of one or more of the following elements”, including magic, wizards, mythological creatures, etc. I’ve long felt that fantasy and SF are defined not by a single attitude, but by certain tropes that are frequent (if not universal); SF&F are defined more by their tag clouds than by their philosophies. It’s good to see him using this type of definition.

So overall, Playing at the World has been a great, enlightening read so far. I’ll continue to review it as I finish more.

New Traits for Blade & Crown: Loud

The Traits listed in Blade & Crown were never intended to be the only ones possible; many, many more have yet to be invented and described. As another occasional series, I’m going to describe other Traits that I’ve come up with over the years. This is the first.

long-sword_1f300

You are loud. You have no indoor voice; not only do you go up to eleven, you usually stay there. This can help you be heard across long distances, or in the heat of battle; and you can be hard to ignore or rebuff. But you also have a hard time being stealthy (“ARE WE SNEAKING NOW?”), and subtleties of register may sometimes be lost on you. It doesn’t mean you’re thick-headed, though — just really, really not quiet.

There’s a pre-gen character in one of my set scenarios who has this Trait. As the sheet says, “Think of Brian Blessed.” Every time I’ve GMed the scenario, the character has been one of the first picked, and one of the most enjoyable. Players have a great time being a very loud, very large ham. When appropriately allowed for in the social contract (gotta watch out for this Trait being an excuse to hog the spotlight), this can be loads of fun.

RPG history: The Little Tin Soldier

Photo of 901 and 909 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, in 2013

901 and 909 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, as they appear today

When I got into gaming (somewhere around 1980, plus or minus a year), at first it was just with friends. My gaming really kicked into high gear, though, when I visited the Little Tin Soldier.

It was located at 909 West Lake Street, near the corner of Lake and Bryant. Its next-door neighbor, right on the corner at 901 West Lake, was Woodcraft Hobbies, who sold model railroad equipment, model airplanes, kites, balsa wood and plastic models of all sorts. The two stores sold a lot of similar things — paints and some kinds of models, for example — so you might think they’d be in competition, but in fact they always seemed to have a collegial relationship. I remember that a lot of people were customers of both stores.

The windows facing the street were big and (if I remember right) single-glazed, making the store somewhat cold in winter. And I always remember the somewhat science fictional sound of city buses passing by the windows. Much of the store had a patina of age to it, with a lot of dust; I remember games that had been on display as long as I’d been going there, never sold or discounted. The owner, Don, occasionally smoked cigars in the store, so I remember a faint smell of tobacco.

Floorplan of the Little Tin Soldier, as I remember it

Floorplan of the Little Tin Soldier, as I remember it (not to scale)

The first floor of the Little Tin Soldier (or as I soon learned to call it, the Tin) was separated more or less into four quarters, two nearer the front door and the street, two nearer the rear door and the parking lot.

The quadrant to your right, as you came in the front door, was where most of the games were displayed. The games were all on big tiered racks, not terribly well-suited to finding things (everything was face out, so it meant flipping through the stock if you wanted to find a particular thing; the flipping can’t have been good for the structural integrity of the thin books and pamphlets; and some games were too big to even fit in the slots). RPGs, wargames, boardgames, etc. were loosely separated into sections; there was, for example, a big D&D section, beginning closest to the front door, next to the window. Tekumel and Chainmail were nearby. But I think it was also separated more by publisher, so (if I’m remembering this right) SPI’s wargames and RPGs were near each other.

Photo of Little Tin Soldier marquee as it appears today

Little Tin Soldier marquee as it appears today

Across from the game displays was the glass service counter, with lots of dice and minis on display. As you came in the back door, the quadrant to your right (and thus next to the counter) was all lead minis hanging in racks.

The quadrant to your left as you came in the back door was the gaming space, separated from the rest of the store by big pieces of particleboard (but with a big gap, forming the entryway). The space contained a pop machine (which is how I still have a vivid memory of when pop cost $0.50/can), tables and chairs. The tables were of the folding variety, presumably because they were cheaper, but also because they folded up the tables every week for Thursday night naval gaming on the carpet — huge engagements that used the entire gaming space. And there were a few dozen folding chairs, many with broken seats. Gamers eventually started bringing their own chairs, usually labeled to make it clear whose it was; you knew someone was a member of the gaming elite if they left a padded folding chair with their name on it in the store. These personal chairs still got broken; there was a minor conflict between the ‘elite’ and people who used the chairs regardless of whose name was on it.

Permanently affixed to the wall, in one corner of the gaming space, was a big chart that looked like a CRT. I remember it mentioning elves, cavalry and other fantasy army-sounding troop types. I’m pretty sure it was for someone’s Tolkienesque miniatures game, but the chart remains a mystery to me: what game was it for? Who created it? Why did it, above other games, get to be a permanent fixture in the store? I have a couple exceedingly dim memories, but I don’t know for sure.

Behind the minis, again separated by a piece of particleboard, and immediately to the right as you came in the back door, were the stairs into the basement. The basement was a rather forbidding place, dank and not particularly clean. But it was also where the bathroom was, so at least passing through was a necessity. And when the gaming space got too crowded, the basement was overflow space. Going down there was something I only did when necessary.

The bathroom had scads and scads of graffiti written on it. It was graffiti that you might expect grognards and gamers to write: geeky, often military in nature, sometimes very literate, sometimes horribly crude. I remember a “Killroy was here” or two, and lots of other things. A few that I remember:

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

I always thought that one was a Tekumel reference, until I realized it’s sort of meta-graffiti. I could also swear I remember graffiti that said “Mene, mene, tekel, upmooi”, but I have no idea what that would mean or if it even existed.

Why are the streets of Paris lined with trees? So the German soldiers can march in the shade.

Military? Check. Historically geeky? Check. Offensive? Check.

Onward Arrakis soldiers, going as to war

And I remember that there were little white blotches here and there; some people apparently even used whiteout. Perhaps some of the graffiti was too offensive, even by the lewd standards there.

I have many memories of hanging out at the Tin during summers, listening to the grognards arguing while I drew maps for my RPG campaigns. I remember playing FITS/Dawn Patrol during the occasional waves of popularity the game enjoyed. I remember going down the street to the SuperAmerica for snacks, or going the other way into Uptown for Zantigo. I remember RPG night on Fridays, and occasionally going to naval wargaming Thursday nights. I have a lot of personal memories regarding the Tin, but those are getting too… personal.

I’ve found references online that the Tin was originally La Belle Alliance, but I was never there for any prior incarnation. In fact, not too many years after I started going to the Tin, Don got out of the business (or at least out of the Tin — I have no idea where he landed after that). I remember there being a few tense weeks as all the Tin frequenters wondered where Twin Cities gaming would roost. In the end, a former employee of Don’s bought the place and a new gaming store rose from the ashes. More on that later.

Gaming tools: 20+

Hopefully, you’ve already seen these two videos.

In them, Lou Zocchi explains in grand style why his GameScience dice are the best around. They’re pointy, sharp, untumbled and unpolished. GameScience dice are also usually sold uninked, and they’re available in a bunch of pretty translucent colors. The dice feel solid, and they’re well-made; I’ve got GameScience dice that are 30 years old and still have sharp edges. I’ve been a fan of their dice for a long time.

My favorite type are the 20+, which are 20-siders with 0-9 twice; half the numbers have a little “+” symbol next to them. This makes the dice really easy to use as both 20-siders and as 10-siders. You might say “why not just use a twenty-sider marked 1-20 as a ten-sider?” I’d respond that it takes just that fraction of a second longer to interpret, say, a 17 as a 7. “Fine,” you say, “then why not just use regular ten-siders?” Because they don’t have the spherical, solid feel of icosahedrons. Naturally, it just comes down to personal preference — and those are mine.

Photo of purple 20+ dice

My new tanzanite 20+ dice

Blade & Crown, as you may know, mostly uses ten-siders. For many years, I’ve used non-GameScience ten-siders, because those were what I had. But this past year, I finally admitted to myself what my dream dice were: translucent, purple, inked, 20+. I did some checking and found that Gamestation sells GameScience dice in “tanzanite”, which was supposed to be a darker purple than the “amethyst” color. I already had some GameScience dice in amethyst, so tanzanite sounded enticing. And, I discovered, Gamestation sells the dice inked! Must mean hand-inking, which is kind of amazing, but it’d work better than crayon or whiteout. I didn’t see any 20+ dice in that color on their website, but they were the only site advertising tanzanite — in fact, the only place where I’ve ever heard tanzanite mentioned. Gamestation had 20+ in other colors and they had inked dice, so why not try? I wrote them an email and asked if there was such a thing as inked 20+ tanzanite dice.

Photo of tanzanite and amethyst GameScience dice

Amethyst (left) and tanzanite (right)

James Means wrote back very quickly, checked the stock and said there were, indeed, tanzanite, inked 20+ dice. I first got a quote for six dice, then decided on eight (about the most you ever need in a B&C roll), and when I asked for eight, James gave me free shipping! Wow, that’s good customer service.

I got the dice with gold ink, which doesn’t quite go with the purple as well as I thought it would; if I could do it again, I’d have gotten white ink. Also, it turns out that tanzanite isn’t as dark or as indigo as I’d hoped — I already had a tanzanite die in my collection and hadn’t realized it.

But overall, I’m very satisfied, and I now have all the 20+ dice I could need. (Although, of course, ‘need’ and ‘desire’ are two different things.)

Phoenix Games

As part of catching up on Twin Cities gaming history (and specifically of local FLGSs), I’ve been reminded of a pernicious falsehood that still floats around: the rumor that Phoenix Games went out of business. A lot of people seem to think that Tower Games took the place of Phoenix, or even that the Source is the only FLGS around. Baffling!

Phoenix Games did not go out of business. They didn’t even go internet-only. They just moved to Deephaven, near Minnetonka. The store isn’t as large as it was on Lake Street, but it’s definitely still a brick-and-mortar business; I bought a couple Osprey books there just this past summer. If you hear someone say they’re out of business, or that they only sell on the net, or that some other FLGS has taken the reins from them… well, please help set the record right.

RPG history

Having gotten into gaming in Minneapolis in the early 80s, it’s hard not to have some interest in the history of RPGs. Where did Arneson & Gygax get their ideas from? How did gaming spread? Where were ideas first expressed? How do I fit into all of it?

A huge volume called Playing at the World has recently come out, and my friend John let me page through his copy. The book attempts to be a very thorough, well-researched, almost academic history of gaming as it led to the creation D&D, and of D&D’s influence on later gaming. On paging through it, I had a small amount of trepidation; for example, a random page toward the end contained a sentence that seemed to betray a grognardian, conservative mistrust of 1980s ‘realism’. But I wasn’t sure of the context of that quote (perhaps it wasn’t actually as grognardian as it sounded), and the book intrigued me. The research really does look good; I checked a couple important but somewhat obscure names in Twin Cities gaming, and they both get multiple mentions in the index, for example. Last night I finally relented and bought a copy.

As Peterson remarks in the introduction, his book tries to stick as closely as possible to well-documented sources, which is good. It’s too easy for people’s reminiscences to lose objectivity over the years. But at the same time, Playing at the World makes me wonder what other corners of gaming history have yet to be documented. And it makes me want to get down my reminiscences while I can.

To help do my part, I’m going to start an occasional series here, documenting Twin Cities fandom as best I can. (Which is to say, not in nearly as much depth, or with as much objectivity, as Peterson does.) Hopefully I won’t become mired in sentimentality or ‘get off my lawn’-ism. Please let me know if I do!

And I’ll continue to review Peterson’s book as I work through it.

Apologies for not posting for a few days. Life has been busy.

Calendars in gaming

The beginning of the year also seems like a good time to address calendars and worldbuilding. Does your game setting have a calendar? Do you keep track of time within it?

A calendar can be a really valuable piece of worldbuilding, and a quick way of conveying a good sense of place to players. For example, the current year in my Calteir fantasy setting is 156 SD (Semlaren Dynasty). That instantly communicates several things: that this culture considers dynasties to be pretty important; that the current dynasty is something called Semlaren, so whatever Semlaren is, it’s pretty important; the current dynasty isn’t very long-lived; and this culture doesn’t keep track of history on a wider or absolute scale. The players have continued to keep track of days using this calendar, and at our most recent session, I briefly forgot how many days there are in a month and a player quickly reminded me (28). That tells me that the players are into the setting.

There are lots of other forms of calendar. The Chinese calendar traditionally used a combination of reign dates (auspicious names given to the reigns of particular emperors, sometimes with more than one reign date per emperor) and the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches system that gave a cycle of 60 years.

Thus, I might tell you something happened in the Xingchou year of the Chang’an reign date of Empress Wu Zetian. If it’s currently the Renzi year of the Ruizong emperor, and you know your calendar, you know that the Xingchou events happened 11 years ago.

This calendar tends to emphasize imperial rule and the cyclical nature of time; again, important aspects of traditional Chinese culture.

Other cultures, naturally, have different ways of keeping track of time, from South Asian kalpas to Lakota winter counts. All can convey different senses of place. Tolkien’s millenia-long ages (3021 years, for the Third Age) convey the sense that someone in the world has a very grand, but not infinite, sense of time. Other forms of time-tracking will convey different values.

The trick, of course, is how to use these in an RPG. Should you even use a calendar in a game? It depends on your game, of course. If it’s a modern, cinematic game, it’s probably enough to say “It’s the beginnging of the year, around January”. Or even leave the time unspecified until it’s dramatically required. As an extreme example, characters in my current occasional Og game can barely tell time at all, much less keep track of months or years. Tracking a calendar there would actively go against the flavor of the game.

Even in a crunchier, more detailed game, calendars aren’t strictly necessary. Would I, for example, ever make my players learn a 60-term cycle and know the reign dates of all recent emperors in order to understand when a historical event happened? Probably not, mostly because it’s too little reward for too much effort. But I might well sprinkle in those kinds of details when giving other information:

“Really? The grand minister was assassinated? When did that happen?”
“Make a History roll. Ah, a success! You know it happened 27 years ago, during the Broken Temple year of the Sironok emperor.”

If and when it’s appropriate, an in-game calendar can be a valuable tool.

Festivals in gaming

Happy New Year! And happy holiday festival of the moment to PCs in any of your game worlds. Festivals can be tremendously useful in RPGs; here are some of the things I’ve found them handy for.

One of the biggest is giving a sense of your worldbuilding without being a blowhard. Festivals communicate cultural values. Little towns in the US, for example, tend to create festivals around local products that they’re especially proud of, and the ways that they celebrate — how important that pie-eating contest is, or deciding who gets to be in the parade — will betray even more about how the culture works, or doesn’t work. And the sights and smells of a festival are a great way to evoke setting. What unusual things do the PCs see? What delicious or repulsive odors are there? All these can give a sense of place, without resorting to expository spew.

In my monthly fantasy game, the PCs recently experienced the Feast of Roshanima, an avatar of a wind god. Roshanima is famous for diving off a cliff when confronted by ravening hordes, and being delivered to safety by a gust of wind. The festival is ostensibly a celebration of the avatar’s power to save people from inclement natural phenomena, and the temple of the wind god was a major focus. But it also made clear a lot of other facets of Morensian culture: ecstatic pilgrims throwing themselves off buildings in imitation of Roshanima; the temple using the festival to make clear how important and magnanimous it is (hinting at deeper politics); the wandering groups of mercenaries used in lieu of town guards; the importance given to providing honey buns for the the crowds (indicating the importance of honey production in this region). Quick, significant insights into the world and how it works.

Festivals are also concentrations of hubbub and activity, drawing in people from far and wide. They’re great for giving a sampling of the diversity present in your setting: groups of rag-clad pilgrims jostling alongside the sedan chairs of the upper classes; asteroid miners, laden with stories about what happens on the Rim, who’d rarely ever come to the domed cities otherwise; groups of GLBT people, perhaps banding together for safety on the bandit-infested roads. Foreigners might be attracted by festivals, and come to meet friends, or to experience the local culture, or to trade — a festival is a great place to have an encounter with a culture or group that the PCs normally wouldn’t encounter.

Crowds can also be great places for RPG action scenes. They present perfect cover for pickpockets to steal the important MacGuffin, or for clandestine meetings to happen in the open. Many movies feature chases through parades (viz: The Fugitive, The Pelican Brief, etc.) because they allow plenty of opportunities for pursuer or pursued to get lost in the crowd. Guards (/police/security-bots/other keepers of the peace) can get overwhelmed, leaving the PCs the only ones around to keep chaos from exploding. If there are fireworks, they can provide an excellent mask for gunshots; the screams of a victim are unlikely to be discerned against a background of drunken revelry.

And speaking of masks, if the festival is Saturnalian, all kinds of unusual events are possible: peasants trade places with queens; bishops pretend to be heretics; everyone stomps on honey-buns instead of eating them; people of all sorts wear costumes and roleplay within the RPG. In a Saturnalian festival, everyone can become the Trickster God for a day.

While I’m at it, here are some encounter possibilities at a festival:

  1. Two merchants are hawking (whatever the standard food for the festival is). They get in a fight over the correct way to prepare the food, and how the wrong preparation method implies heresy.
  2. An ecstatic pilgrim is speaking excitedly to all passerby about their religious truth. In among the babble, they sprinkle in a few interesting tidbits about (whatever the PCs are currently interested in). And then the pilgrim disappears into the tumult.
  3. The noise level is high: ecstatics are exhorting, merchants are hawking, everyone is cavorting. But suddenly, a hush falls over the crowd…
  4. Someone yells “it’s coming!” and the crowd starts to press forward; seek shelter or be crushed.
  5. A roving group of vigilantes is punishing festival-goers for what they believe to be infractions against the common law. The real police are nowhere to be found.
  6. A kind soul is handing out free amulets to whomever will tell a story related to the festival topic. The amulets turn out to be powerful magic tokens of protection against (the antagonist in the previous person’s festival story).
  7. Someone bumps into one of the PCs, and when they check their pockets, they have acquired a very expensive piece of jewelry.
  8. A priest is declaiming the hedonism going on, while the crowd is carrying a paper-mache griffin around. Suddenly, the griffin begins transforming into a real one.
  9. There’s going to be a tug-of-war between the priests and the mercenaries, and the priests have their ace in the hole, Sister Lumary, who’s built like a bear. The mercenaries try to recruit one of the PCs to help out.
  10. For the festival, it’s traditional to write predictions for the coming year on little paper boats, then float them down the river with a candle. Further down the river, someone is collecting the predictions and performing an evil spell on them.
  11. Far away in the crowd, one of the PCs glimpse someone very important from their past.
  12. A group of happy revelers try to include the PCs in their festivities, and will be rather offended if the characters refuse their kindness.

Is Jordan Peele a gamer?

If you haven’t seen it, go watch the “Kanye the Giant” sketch from Key & Peele. It has its problems — it plays into some of the sexist stereotypes in gaming culture, certainly. It gets a few small details wrong (do people say “dungeon master” rather than “DM” in real play?), but those could easily be dramatic license more than misunderstanding.

On the positive side, though, it hits a bunch of deep and funny issues in gaming: players who refuse to respect the GMs’ worldbuilding; GMs who refuse to let their worldbuilding bend to the desires of the players; how the social contract evolves through actual play; how whole sessions can be composed of what happens “in town”. And the use of terminology is mostly dead-on, a sign that either someone has done their homework, or didn’t need to because they already knew it. It’s pretty clear this sketch was created by someone who gets gaming culture quite well.

There are a bunch of other sketches from Key & Peele that show a pretty deep understanding of fannish culture, too. (“Pizza Order” seems to do for comic fandom what Kanye the Giant does for gaming.) A lot of their other sketches contain nods to SF&F fandom, action movies and other nerdy hobbies. So I wonder, is either Keegan-Michael Key or Jordan Peele a gamer? It’s certainly possible that one of their writers is a geek, rather than Key or Peele themselves, but, well, I can hope. And if one of them is, then for no reason I can pin down, my instinct is that it’s Jordan Peele.