Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Far be it for me to admit that I read Grognardia.  I hate that site, I hate its popularity and I really, truly hate the sort of dribbling, smug bullshit that falls off of the guy's fingers whenever he types about the 'direction' of RPG hobbies or D&D in particular.  But this week I have been hard up for material to write about, I haven't been able to spend time researching anything deep, and I'm honestly in the mood to write a rant.  And since the industry-pandering Grognard is always a good source when I'm in this mood, I did go to his site this morning and, predictably, I did find something to rant about.  Namely, this little gem:

"... These are the guys who like to spend hours poring over their rulebooks looking for the perfect combination of abilities for their characters and who think that nothing less than dozens of nested, cross-referenced encounter charts containing hundreds of entries is sufficient to create a 'realistic' campaign world.  That's definitely not what I want in a RPG..."

There's a pretty sweet shot at yours truly.  I just helped launch a site (really, the IT-genius Carl did the actual work) deliberately to accomplish exactly that, wasting my time slapping together stale, nested tables that clearly have jack shit to do with real D&D ... not that I need the big G to tell me that this is so.  I have dozens of people to do that for me.

Yes, it's true.  I have spent hours, days, even years poring over the rulebooks for D&D, and for quite a few other games, and over books at the library, at films and documentaries ... at anything, in fact, that will help me run this game BETTER.  It is a quest for me, it is art, it is sex.  So fuck G and anybody else who finds this behavior doesn't fit with their perception of what D&D should be for them.

Now, maybe that's my overreaction to his statement.  It's the 'definitely' that really cuts close to the bone, I think.  Fine, not his cup of tea, ho hum, I wonder what's in the paper today?  He's making it clear that it's definitely not his cup of tea ... implying it shouldn't be mine, or anybodys.  And I'd like to know why.

(Oh yes, I know, he's not really implying it, he's using that pandering it-could-go-either-way kind of language that exempts him from responsibility, but fuck that, this is a rant)

At this point I'm going to crumble a bit and provide a link; believe me, it's like shit in my mouth to send any readers his way, but here's the post the quote comes from.  To this point I have read through the text twice, and I will be honest ... I still don't know what he's talking about.  I do get a sort of old D&D is old and out of date and people aren't playing it any more kind of blah, blah, blah rhetoric, calling for some other game(?) to motivate the masses towards some kind of ecology(?) of players who would accomplish ... what, I don't know.  At that point I'm asleep on my desk.

I do know that there won't be any groundswell of culture started by people who feel too much poring over books is definitely not the way to go.  Which might be why the community has managed to remain in its infancy these past forty years ... because the drum is still in the hands of people banging away at the message, "Rewrite the Game, Rewrite the Game," in expectation of the glorious day that shall come when a perfect rule set shall be written for a perfect game that shall unite the masses and bring in the sheep to play.  Yes, dear folks, all we need is some sort of new game that shall inspire All, and end once and forever the in-fighting and bickering.  Then the new players that come shall truly be blessed.  All praise the game.  Let it be proclaimed throughout the land, not tables but faith!

Uh ... yeah.

Strawman argument?  Not hardly.  I'm reading an awful lot into G's post, lots he didn't put there, and I'll admit that heartily.  I'm reading into it a lot of other posts, from a lot of other people, and pulling it together into one song.  It's not that I care what G's position is ... I just want an excuse to bitch about things I'm getting tired of hearing.

Namely, that original D&D was an awful game, that people who play it are obviously morlocks who have yet to see the light, and that those of us who stubbornly cling to old ideals along the lines that hacking and slashing is kind of fun are obviously retarded.  After all, if we were capable of seeing the light, we'd be playing non-dice roleplaying games like the grown ups, right?

And those of us uselessly wasting our time problem-solving the game by painstakingly building up tables and employing them, to settle arguments at the table ... well, we're only misguided fools.  Our insistence that D&D can be more complicated without damaging the flow of gameplay is delusional ... because it can't be done.  People who have not done it, who can not do it, who have no interest in trying to do it, have said so.

Yes, gentle reader, the word is in.  D&D is out of fashion (again) and pretty soon no one will be playing it (like before).  We'll be playing video games, or absolutely something that isn't played with pencil and paper, because those things are dead and gone, don't you know?

Well, maybe I am wasting my time barfing out tables about monsters and cities and trade, but it is my time to waste.  I have players who all play video games like addicted freaks, who come to my table because they'd rather use a pencil, whenever my game is available.  If I ran my world more often, they'd come more often.  And I have this ridiculous blog, in which I talk exclusively about AD&D, stupidly thinking people want to read about that.  I'm such a violent, pathological character that I'm constantly amazed I have more than two followers, but yet I go on with my poring and my table-making just as though it's the right thing to do.  As I have been doing for 31 years, 11 weeks and 2 days.  I feel ashamed that I have wasted my life in this way, and wasted thousands of hours of other people's lives, giving them something to do on Friday and Saturday nights.  How foolish of me to do that.  Particularly in this worthless, dying game ecology, so vaguely described by the most popular pundit in this community.

Maybe I should see the light and quit.


Anonymous said...

Some folks can't be bothered to up the ante in their game.

But I'm rather glad for folks like yourself who do indeed up said ante. Your tables and charts provided much inspiration for my own, and even if my players will never (better not ever) see them, it's always been one of my great pleasures as DM to craft them.

Some folks can't be bothered with that sort of approach. The weather is always sunny, except for plot weather. There's a magic item store kicking around every town somewhere, and the fights are all carefully "balanced" (heaven forbid the PCs might lose and jeopardise the plot) to make it so they always "win".

4E's video game mimicry is exactly why my players hate the system. If they wanted to have that sort of game, they'd play WoW, WAR, LotRO, or any of those other hack and slash, buff and debuff games.

There was actually passage in 2E's Player's Handbook (the skills chapter, in fact) about, heaven forbid, using a book to look things up about the actions you might take. This idea, that you should go out and learn something about the world to play, is not a weakness, nor a waste of time. It is the medium's greatest strength.

It says a lot about the game that we can play when we're eight, eighteen, and seventy-eight, and the game develops with us, changes to suit our needs, all with how much effort we're willing to put in.

So yeah. Fight the good fight, and play the game you worked to make so damn awesome.

Anonymous said...

well ranted.

the most worthwhile aspect of this essentially masturbatory activity, is that it inspires research to further the fantasy.

however, unlike sexual fantasy, our particular circle jerk inspires research into topics that may be useful to us for more than immediate gratification.

your blog, and your wiki, exemplify the sort of self-education that fantasy roleplaying inspires. even in a completely fantastic setting, there is a certain drive for consistency that inspires better understanding the world in which we interact with mundanes.

btw and fwiw, (dont you hate txt abbrvns?) - i really enjoy mal'ski's blog as well. ponder the breadth of the game.

DRANCE said...

Hi there. I enjoy reading your blog, Grognardia, and many others. I really believe, as I am sure you do, that it would be great if we all agreed to disagree and just played the damned game, and not belittle people for playing the game in their particular way! I read that particular post from Mal and I have to say that maybe I'm a bit slow (and getting slower as I age) but I didn't really take any offense from it. Do I find him sometimes a bit "high falutin'"? Heck yeah! But if he's aiming shots at anyone in particular, like you, then have at him! But this bickering is just pointless, really. All the more so because it's a game, something we're all supposed to be doing for fun! I've said this all before, but really, this arguing over a game makes outsiders (like my wife) regard us all as the stereotypical nerds they believe us to be (a la the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons). So let's just say viva la difference or whatever...have a great T-Day! Love the blog!

R said...

Hey Alexis, if you're looking for content topics, could you talk about the Calendar in your campaign? I could be mistaken, but I don't think that's a post you've done yet. I'm sure you either a) don't give a shit about it or b) use the exact time-appropriate one. I just started venturing down this road and was wondering was kinds of resources are out there (I intend to have appropriate calendars for each culture...probably 5 or so total).

I can't stand the rants, but I know it's a lull before you put out more great work. BTW, the wiki looks fantastic so far.

R said...

Nevermind about the calendar request, I just searched and saw you posted a bit about it 9 months back :-)

Zzarchov said...

Personally I am awestruck by the level of detail of your work and the value it can add. But I do take offence to my reading into your post about "rewriting the game".

As I look through my old 1e books I can't help but notice you too, are rewriting the game to be more perfect. With new charts and tables, and new rules (such as the trampling rules I heartily absorbed into my games as they were brilliant). Your game may have D&D as a base, but it has moved quite far from D&D.

5stonegames said...

There is room in this little hobby for all kinds of gaming.

Play what makes you and yours happy. That is all.

Nick said...

Alexis--I don't really think that G is taking a swipe at you personally. Frankly, I don't think that he is the type to single out people OR takes swipes at people. Frankly, I don't see an angry or offensive bone in his writings.

I read (and enjoy) his blog, and I read and enjoy your blog. I see many more similarities in your gaming sensibilities than I see differences.

I understand your need to occasionally rant, but SURELY there are more deserving targets out there.

Anonymous said...

I've been to his site a few times, but only if I'm so bored I make a complete run-through of my bookmarks to find something to read. I personally am not particularly interested in 'the history and Traditions of The Hobby'- I started with the red and blue softcovers, quickly moved up to AD&D in 1980, and between then and now I've played and run several different game systems in addition to 1e. My interests lie in running games, and in playing in them ( though I'm picky as hell with regards to the quality of the DM). I'm interested in finding ideas and material to improve my game. That sort of content is what keeps me hitting this site like an addict looking for a fix, as I read (and re-read) posts pulling useful nuggets out of them. G has nothing like that for me, from what I've found.
Besides, I hate the name.
Let the game scientists and philosophers ruminate on what it all means - we engineers have shit to do, and no time to waste on that nonsense.

Blaise said...

I read both your blog and Grognardia and until this post enjoyed both.
Your blog has much to say but when you cover it with bile and venom it loses the genuinely thoughtful and inspirational material within.


Ben Brooks said...

Nope, the thoughtful and inspirational material is still there. He even used his bile to make a point, and a one I wish more people would consider.

Mr K said...

Many experienced players want a more detailed game, with tables that describe everything, although its not what I want as a game. I believe that this catering to experienced players may have had the effect of alienating newer players to the hobby.

Thats what he's saying... good grief.

Anonymous said...

Here, at least, is some common ground between you and Mal.

perst: one of those guys who just won't, you know, give up?

theste: something vaguely theatrical.

Alexis said...


You say that post proves common ground between G and I, but frankly, no. That post demonstrates only more blockheaded thinking about the limitations of D&D, this time couched in some far-from-comprehensive literary context. The fact that many D&Der's read pulp hardly limits the game ... though clearly it limits the imagination of G. His ridiculous statements about the game being broken "the farther one gets from pulp fantasy/picaresque roots" is perhaps one of the dumbest things I've heard this year, and made me laugh out loud.

The man has his head up his ass.

marc said...

Hmmm.... First time to this blog so I figured I would read through a bunch of entries and here is where I ended up.

I have tempered the instinct to react to some of the posts and get caught up in some online arguing, that doesn't really accomplish much. These are games we are talking about, right? Taking time to hang out and have fun. Where is all of the anger coming from?

If I like OD&D and Ralphie likes D&D 4e and Simon likes Runebound and Sally thinks that there should be a uniform saving throw and that all weapon damage should be d6 I see the following options. We don't play games together, we play together, rotate games and have fun, or we call each other names and try to scream louder and more forcefully than the other players for not agreeing with us.

What I see here is option 3.

It is games we are talking about right?

Anthony said...

Ooo ooooo let me jump in here.

Grognardia's navel gazing technique is nigh-indestructible!

Fear how he starts paragraphs!

"I've never made a secret of my love for post-apocalyptic RPGs."


"I've also never made a secret of my love-hate relationship with Michael Moorcock, a conflict that has only become more acute as I've gotten older and read more of his non-fiction works"

Fear not! These gems are present everywhere!

"I want to want to play it, if you get my meaning, but something prevents my doing so and it baffles me."

And that's just from one of his most recent posts.

I prefer someone with a little venom behind his words and substance to his writings than a navel gazing pedant.

How far can I go on someone else's blog? Well, here goes anyway:

Reading Grognardia is like fucking a corpse.

Alexis said...

Thank you deeply, Anthony ... we all had a good round of laughter around here reading your comment; and I needed the support.

I've been feeling since writing this post like I pooped on Christmas or something.

Anthony said...

No problem. What else can you do with a sacred cow besides make hamburgers?

One of his latest posts (Between the Cracks) is 90% recycled material from his own blog and others and 10% emo Live Journal. He used to have some decent material on mega-dungeon design, but it's all navel gazing now.

If anyone really stopped reading your blog because of this post, then they were coming here for the wrong reasons anyway. But I guess some people really do haunt these blogs in search of the next cult of personality. It is similar to your (fair) review of Raggi's tripe...

Ok, enough hating. Until the next rant :)

Anonymous said...

Raise your hand if you've actually fucked a corpse... ummm, yeah. No! Me? I was just stretching. Yaaawwwwn. Wow, is it late? I'm beat. Heh.

I love this blog for the insight, intelligence, honesty and fearlessness. The bile is just a bonus.

Anonymous said...

Alexis, I'm saddened that I gave so little effort to writing my comment.

My point was not directed to Mal's misguided laments about limitations of D&D. My point was that he, like you, at least grasps the point that a good game is not "story driven" but is instead a base for post facto story telling. That's the commonality I meant to reference.

A few more words would, in this case, have been more. Apologies to Gertrude Stein, no aphorism ever can be completely apt.

Carl said...

I like to tell my players that I'm not telling a story. That's their prerogative. What I am doing is providing a simulation that they can use to play a game.

The story thing was a particularly difficult hump for some of my players to get over. They were convinced that without a story there could be no game. What would they do?

Whatever you'd like, I'd say. But if there's no plot, how will we know what to do?

Seek your answers within, I'd say. Roll up a character and see if you can drive that character to fullfil his or her own ambitions. Live vicariously through them. Be bad, be good, be indifferent -- it matters not to me. You act and the world will react. If you're bold enough, perhaps the gods will notice.