I don’t know when members of The Gauntlet started to refer to themselves as “Gauntleteers.” It’s possible I came up with the term, but it’s equally likely someone else did. I know for sure it’s been happening since at least 2016, because we used to have the term listed on our Patreon page, but it definitely pre-dates then.
We just concluded a successful crowdfunding campaign for Hearts of Wulin, and I’ve been sitting here since last night trying to think of something interesting or profound or reflective to say about the process, but I’m coming up empty-handed. Mostly I just keep thinking about how much it felt like a community effort—The Gauntlet gave everything it had to make this campaign a success—and that causes me to keep coming back to the word “Gauntleteer.”
It’s a silly word. Gauntleteer. It evokes The Mickey Mouse Club and the Mousketeers—perpetually sunny, perpetually smiling, white bread middle America bullshit. And so, in that sense, our use of the word Gauntleteer is ironic.
But there is something earnest about it, too. “Gauntleteer” is whimsical. And so much of our community is dedicated to the idea of whimsy, to the idea of playfulness, to the idea of having fun. I can’t overstate how much The Gauntlet—fundamentally—is a celebration, an ongoing commitment to joy and delight. We just really love tabletop roleplaying games—playing them, discussing them, creating them—and we love all the ways you can create community around tabletop roleplaying games. I think whenever people have had friction with our community, it’s because they don’t understand that we operate on this really pure, earnest level that doesn’t make a lot of room for cynicism and defeatism. Or, more accurately, we haven’t done a good job telegraphing our community values to those people.
When Donald Trump was elected, I remember going directly to The Gauntlet and saying “We will be your refuge, we will be your place to find joy.” In the middle of my own grief about what was happening to my country, I made a commitment to our members that we would be a good place, a safe place. And we have stuck to that. Everyday we are hit with constant reminders that much of the world is becoming morally depraved, that right-wingers and fascists are on the rise, and that good people are settling into despair (or, more frequently, swinging at each other because those punches are easier to land). But for me and many other Gauntleteers, The Gauntlet is a haven, The Gauntlet is how we are getting through this ugly moment.
Which isn’t to say it’s always sunshine and rainbows. We definitely have our moments, times when our community is tested, but we survive those moments because we are united by a love of TTRPGs and each other. Gauntleteers support one another, celebrate one another, play games with one another. We are creating memories and experiences with each other that absolutely transcend petty rivalries and bullshit.
Right now there are a lot of interesting and important conversations happening with regards to the TTRPG industry, particularly as it relates to fair pay, accessibility, and representation. Those are good and important conversations; I follow them all, and I try to be as thoughtful as possible when it comes to how The Gauntlet fits into those dynamics. But I will not abandon joy. I will not abandon whimsy. I will not allow myself to lose sight of what I love about tabletop roleplaying games. Say what you want about Dungeons & Dragons, but I absolutely adore the part of that community (much of it new faces) that is just having a great fucking time playing DnD.
Gauntleteers are having a great fucking time playing indie TTRPGs. And that’s more or less all you need to know about The Gauntlet. We’re a simple folk. We play games, discuss games, create games, and try to be as nice as possible to each other while we do those things.
I’m so proud to be a Gauntleteer.