Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's A Choice

Yes, I could be nicer. I could be less unnecessarily vitriolic. I could couch my discourse in softer, kinder, gentler tones, and make a better first impression. There are other choices than to behave rudely or insult people. There are ways that people can “share ideas” in a civil manner.

I’ve discovered through experience that people who counsel such an approach usually do so from a fairly pretentious position: “In this community (where I am respected and unquestioned), we don’t raise our voices except in an appropriate manner.” For appropriate, please read as, “acceptable;” “agreeable,” “acquiescent.”

When taking a contrary position to anything, particularly something as established as the religious fervor that has become some tenets of D&D, the more kindly your rhetoric, the more easily you can be ignored. Or if you will, the more easily your opponents can hedge and “politely” agree with your opinion without, in fact, changing their behavior or their propaganda. This is a marvelous sort of inclusion; as a manipulative technique it works wonders.

In fact, I have no interest in being included. I feel rather sickened by what I’m reading and seeing on various websites about the game, and I believe firmly that I am not alone. Oh, I may be the most vocal, the most vitriolic, the least respectful and so on. I may be the dancing monkey in this particular performance. I may represent the methods of shock value. But I assure you, my gentle reader, that despite my ungentle approach I sincerely believe everything I’m writing.

Now, I don’t propose that there are a great many who would agree with me. I think, honestly, there are very, very few. But that doesn’t matter. This very few and I have similar emotional reactions to what we’re seeing and what we’re feeling with regards to this game. We love the game. We love playing it, we love working on it, we love the design aspects and the free, unrestricted possibilities in what can and cannot be changed.

I suspect I am not the only person to view the interior of a games shop with a pervasive sense of disgust—at the cheap materials, at the obvious attempts to obfuscate the potential aspects of the game, at the contrived, exploitive nature of the products and so on. I don’t believe I’m the only person to have players arriving in my world saying, geez, you wouldn’t believe the shit out there and the way people are playing. I don’t believe I’m alone in finding 4e laughable.

So I rant. I foam at the mouth, I swear a lot, I act inappropriately, I disturb the lovingly built blogs of other RPG players. I don’t bother to discuss, I eschew dignity and I embarrass the crap out of myself. I do it for that small minority who feels uncomfortable doing the same, though they might want to. I do it to help me sleep at night, knowing I’ve pushed the occasional miserable grandmother with her talk of polite and appropriate behavior down the stairs. It brings me a tremendous sense of peace.

Whatever message that’s lost in my methods, that’s fine with me. I’m really only writing to one in a hundred of the readers who pass me by, because I only expect to be understood that often.

Yes, I know, I'm deluded. I've created a little fantasy justification that allows me the freedom to write what I wish without guilt. It's a paper world all of my own.

Or it would be, if you weren't reading this. Or if you weren't going to come back and read me tomorrow and the day after.


Anonymous said...

Dropping a note here to let you know I'm prowling around. Do you want to direct my attention to any particular posts? I have to say, if you weren't so god damned articulate I'd think you were an asshole rather than just really, really passionate about your hobby.

We need more passion for the hobby.

Alexis said...


Well I am an asshole, but that's neither here nor there.

I'll refrain from answering your question on UncleBear's blog (readers can follow the link) and answer it here.

Six basic books in AD&D. Something like 800 pages of rules. And if I change more than three I should "consider" finding another system. Huh?

If I rebuild my car in four different ways, is he saying it's time to sell? Cause that's just idiocy.

Jeff Rients said...

Keep on rocking, dude.

Carl said...

I read that post and your comment. It seemed over-the-top to me (piglets? heheh) but most of the Internet does now. It seems that the veil of the Internet removes any inhibitions people might have about what they say in the same fashion as the consumption of alcohol. I'm not implying that you'd have any issue with saying things like that to a person's face so-to-speak, but I think that many of the folks who post as passionately as you would think twice about saying something like out loud in public.

I think you could get your opinions a little wider acceptance if you toned it down a little, but then you wouldn't really be Alexis anymore. I'd probably still read you, but I admit that the shock value of what you might say next draws me back with more frequency than the other would. I'm a whore, I suppose. I used to like Howard Stern for the same reason, but his repeated attempts to shock and appall his listeners made me weary after a few months. It all started sounding the same.

I watch The Big Lewbowski from time to time because I love the movie and find it incredibly amusing. There's a scene where one of the characters challenges another, "Am I wrong?" he says, "Am I wrong?" To which the other replies, "No, Walter, you're not wrong, you're just an asshole."

You're comfortable with that, and I'm comfortable with you being that, and there it is. I've been accused of the same, and I'll admit it, but I'm not proud of it.

So here's the question I've been pondering for quite some time now, "Is it better to be right or to be liked?" Sort of a spin on the old, "Catch more flies with honey than vinegar..." tale, which is bullshit, since I make gnat traps of cider vinegar and dish soap and they're very effective.

I'm pretty sure I know your answer, Alexis, having read both your blogs pretty thoroughly, but I'm wondering if you've pondered that question yourself lately.

The hobby -- ah the hobby. It's in a state of flux. Caught between the open-space imagination-driven games of the 70s and 80s and the computer-driven rules-heavy games of the 90s and 00s. Wizards made their money on card games. Games that were designed with the same capitalistic principles as crack cocaine. I could see this was where the game was headed with 3.0. They're turning D&D into a collectible card game, like Pokemon -- Gotta Catch 'Em All!

I don't like it. I don't know what, if anything, we could do about it. I don't like the abbreviated baby-talk that passes for conversation now in online communities either, but that's where language is headed. I'm not going to be able to stop it, just as my teachers could not stop me from refusing to write cursive-form in school. Hell, that's not even taught anymore!

DnD 4.0 is getting people into the hobby. Like it or not, they are the ones who in 20 years are going to be arguing about these new damn kids and their terrible new games that suck, while fondly remembering the "good ol' days" of 4th edition.

I'd like to see more cerebral play in RPGs. I'd like to see a retreat from strict rule adherence and more customizing from game to game, but I don't think it's going to happen from me yelling at people.

What I am going to do is try and build a community of DMs who think at least similarly to me and are willing to run regular campaigns for people. If we want to grow the hobby in the direction we want to see it grow, we're going to have to do some farming.

Alexis said...


That's a lot to answer, but I'll give it a try. Let me just start by saying that I agree, deeply, with everything. But I'll introspectively answer your questions and add a bit of my own take on it.

Yes, a wider acceptance. Every one of my friends tells me so. But they go on being my friend. Perhaps I start sounding the same as well--I've been accused of it online, but mostly I think that's what someone says thinking it will get under my skin. Stern's exhaustive style was to never, ever be serious. Whereas I think I can be serious and decent when in the right company. Yours, for instance...a position I hold strictly on reading your blog and your comments on this one.

I am sometimes wrong. And sometimes I am not an asshole.

It is better to be right. Sooner or later, if you're right, people will like you for that if for no other reason. But when you start thinking it's okay to be wrong--that it's an acceptable way to live--then sooner or later the lies you tell yourself mount up and then no one can like you. If you don't believe that's possible, visit an old age home.

Righteousness, for all its drawbacks, gives strength and virtue. I may not be the most popular one in the room; but when I'm not there at all, it's noticed.

I've never understood how catching flies--those sweet people who are mostly annoying--would make my life better. Sugar is all well and good when you're a child, but as you get older you seek out coffee, beer and spirits...which are all bitter. The best things in life are bitter.

The poor hobby. I know the community feels needful to somehow "save" the hobby, to build and organize and make it grow. I don't see it myself. This blog is about how I play. That's enough. It might inspire other people, it might not. I can only say that playing it this way, my way, makes me happy. I've had players who weren't made happy by it. That's not my concern.

If I had untold wealth, I would run constantly through fifteen or twenty proxies, researchers and assistants, in some vast campaign to which my mind was applied, inviting as many people as was logistically possible to come and play for however many hours a week they could manage. And hopefully, somehow, I could train one of those proxies well enough that I could actually run in my own campaign. That would be sweet.

I always loved sci fi. No doubt you've played Traveller. Ever played Top Secret? For years I ran a game combining the two, which I called "Star Jumper"; Traveller world and characters, Top Secret combat and experience. They meshed brilliantly together.

Don't quit playing. Online didn't create the moronically mediocre, it just gave them a venue outside gaming conventions.

Carl said...

I won't quit playing. I don't think I could. Even if I ran out of players I'd still work on my game. My games that is. I can't stay to one campagin, either.

Have you seen that there's a new edition of Traveller? It's from Mongoose Publishing. I purchased the Pocket Rulebook for $20, and was considering running a limited campagin. Limited because I'm going to take a whack at hard science and space is the most unforgiving campaign world I can think of. I don't think the characters will survive for long. I'm doing some preliminary work right now on the subsector. It's something I'd really like to blog about, and would if I could keep my website up.

I have played Top Secret with friends and solo, and have some very fond memories of running espionage adventures set in East Germany and Poland with the KGB and GRU as the enemy. It was very Rambo meets Mack Bolan meets GI Joe with elements of Robert Ludlum and Ken Follet. I was 12. I miss my first edition rulebook now.