Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dissenting Creative, I

Chris at Hills Cantons has posted a conversation with Rob Kuntz, who according to Wikipedia was TSR Inc.'s "6th employee."  He's the Lord of Green Dragons contributor on the blog of that name, and taking the introduction to the conversation at face value, Kuntz is one of the celebrated originators of D&D and the RPG culture ... and from the evidence of others who speak of him, worthy of a few "fawning superlatives." 

But I'll be honest.  I never heard of him.

I'm just not a fanboy.  I never made any connection between the blog and the Lord of Green Dragon's history.  I'm sure nine tenths of the D&D community were all well aware of this, but in three years of reading blogs I can't recall it being mentioned in anyway that it stuck in my memory.  Oh well.  I don't read that blog, mostly because it is another rehash of old RPG shit that didn't interest me thirty years ago and doesn't interest me now, or dull RPG mechanics which leave me cold.  I know there's a heap-load of contributors, but as i read through the list I notice that I've never made any connection with anyone there.  A few there have commented on this blog, but that is about it.

I'm not slamming Kuntz or any of his crew, but I just want to make it clear that as near as I can tell he has little or no influence on my universe.  I do think it is humourous that he grew up with a set of Collier's Encyclopedias, which had enough of an impact on him to merit their mention in the interview.  The reason for this is that, connecting the Encyclopedias to his being 8 years of age, it may very well be the same set of encyclopedias I grew up with, the encyclopedia that I base all my trade tables upon.  Coincidences.

That said, the interview is interesting and well worth reading, particularly the portion where he describes the decision by TSR to promote the creation and sale of pre-made adventures.  The tale Kuntz tells being on the inside is surprisingly what I would have expected, having lived through the period in question and watching the proliferation of modules and their subsequent smothering of the D&D universe.   Kuntz does not say flat out which specific persons in the company pushed for this change, and he could not be expected to.  Such matters are universally private.  But it gives the overall impression of Kuntz as disgruntled employee, forced to watch something wonderful and unique get crushed underfoot by the acquisition of money.

I've expressed that sentiment myself, even though it was experienced from way out here in the bleachers, where the participants view the tiny figures fighting it out on the field while our noses bleed.  We out here did not have the benefit of having the game changes explained to us in board rooms, but somehow we managed to retain the original spirit of the game Kuntz defends by simply ignoring the business entirely.  We did not buy the modules.  We did not play the modules.  As Kuntz calls us, we were the "dissenting creatives."  We looked at the new books, stole as it pleased us to do so, and changed the particulars of virtually everything we stole.  We would go to the local stores, we would browse through the booklets and shelves, but we certainly didn't bother to buy anything written because it all looked like tremendous loads of shit.  There were always plenty of "eager dependents" anxious to play in our worlds who were dumb enough to buy and buy and buy, and we borrowed for free from them long enough to copy out a table here or a map there.

We ripped off the business producers of the game at every opportunity, pirating tons of material straight off the shelves by memorizing the idea and then producing our own versions of it from scratch.  We stuck it to the man, and we stuck it so hard that yes, there is only one real manufacturer.  We dissenters ensured that one was all there ever could be.

As always, we dissenters will remain in the nosebleed seats.  We will never be the celebrated insiders, able to tell our personal tales about Gary's family or refer to him jovially as EGG.  We are the misanthropes, furtively mastering the game for ourselves and our players.  We will never be Knights of Camelot.  We will never be Jedi.  We're not joiners.  We don't even like joiners.

But it is very quiet up here.  The crowds don't roar too much and there's plenty of space between the seats to play a really good game of our own.  Which I think was something Kuntz said was supposed to happen.

It did.


noisms said...

Nicely put.

Anthony Emmel said...

That's an awesome "first post to read" on your blog. It summarizes a lot of what I've felt over the years in a way I probably could never articulate.

I like it up up here, too.

Alexis said...

Anthony, as an historian, have a look at the Civilization Posts in the link under the "Labels" of my sidebar.