In the comments thread of my last post, Ozzie Pippenger wants to know why it is that there are so many few players producing blogs, and seems to propose that there's an intellectual disconnect between DMs and players (ie., DMs don't represent enough the player point of view). I would recommend that you read all three of Ozzie's comments, but here's a part:
"There are so many different theories about what players like and why the [sic] like it. Maybe a way to settle it would be to actually ask them. I've told all my players to write essays of a few hundred words about why they play the game, which I then plan to post on my blog. I don't expect all of them to do it, but the ones who don't I plan to talk to and report what they say."
To begin with, there's a terrific assumption here that suggests that I haven't asked them. That is to say, that in 30+ years of playing as a DM, it has never occurred to me to say, "So, what do you think?" In effect, Ozzie seems to suggest that we here writing blogs and running worlds are smashing around in the dark, coming up with our 'theories' as if players were incomprehensible baboons living on a distant dark continent, difficult to observe in their natural surroundings and obviously ignored where it comes to the deconstruction of the game.
It's a lot of nonsense, but let's start with asking the question, why don't players write blogs?
I'm sure some of them do. Truth be told, I don't read blogs, not usually, and when I have tried to follow another bloggers content I usually find myself reading about some point that was settled thirty years ago, or about the reinvention of the wheel, where the blogger has reconstructed spells or elements of the combat system or some other thing, for no other reason that that the blogger's idea is different. Such changes never seem to fix any actual problems.
So other blogs bore me, rather. But I'm going to go way out on a limb and suggest that the reason so many blogs are written by DMs and not players is because DMs are activity working on D&D in between sessions, while players are not.
That's a real hard thing to grasp, so I'll go slowly. DMs have to create some kind of world. This world is for players to run in. This world requires maps and charts. A DM records many notes about his or her world. A DM spends a lot of time writing these things down. It is quite easy to rewrite these notes into a blog, so they can be shared with other DMs writing other notes. So the actual groundwork behind the blog content is going to be created by the DM anyway. Thus, the blog is just another place to record it, so other people can see.
Players, on the other hand, who are not also DMs, don't write anything except things pertaining to their characters. In between sessions, players are very passive where it comes to D&D. Oh, they might design the castle they hope their fighter someday builds, but aside from rare things like that, almost ALL of a players' note-taking applies to their character.
This doesn't create a lot of blog content. Here is my character. See his pretty armor? See his pretty bow? My character has a +1 bow. He got it last week. Isn't that interesting? Don't you want to keep reading about my character?
IF the player ALSO has a lot of ideas about how D&D should be designed and played, usually the player will be the proactive sort that actually tries to put a world together and be a DM. If the player isn't that proactive, it tends to dampen somewhat the respect other DMs have for the player. Why should I listen to someone who TELLS me how to design a world if they're not actually doing the work themselves? Surely, this is obvious. It wouldn't be much of a mechanic that didn't actually fix cars.
What Ozzie doesn't seem to understand is that there is no fixed line between a player and a DM. Anyone can DM. Anyone can play. There's a shop not far from where I live that has D&D games on Wednesdays and Sunday afternoons. If I were interested, I could go play tonight. I'm not interested. I've met those people and they are morons. They're running railroaded games. But I could play if I wanted to. It's not a huge mental shift. Fact is, I'm a very good player. I know the books about as well as anyone, I know better than most how to manipulate the rules and I've had two hundred players in my world these past thirty years, so I've got a massive background in watching other players fuck with me. So it wouldn't be hard to take that knowledge and cram it into a character sheet.
Now, here's the fun part.
Ozzie says he is encouraging players to "write essays" describing why they play the game. Ozzie, as per the usual crowd who still thinks this is a practical method to learn anything, hasn't been keeping up with up-to-date sociological evidence.
The following is a speech by Malcolm Gladwell, offered for the promotion of his book Blink. in the video (long, 48 minutes), he describes several circumstances in which people are simply incapable of rationally describing why they like anything. In his book he uses extensive source material to support this theory. Have a watch:
See, in effect, the majority of human beings do not possess the language or the interpretive skill to accurately express WHY they like a thing. They know they "like" something; but where it comes to the use of language to describe that like, they fall short. And the very bizarre result of this is that human beings have been shown to say they "like" a thing because it is something they CAN describe.
For example, let us say that I am not Alexis. I like Mozart, but I know very little about Mozart, and even less about music theory, so if you ask my WHY I like Mozart, I'm going to be stumped. I like him, but I can't tell you why. So in reality, it is a whole lot easier for me to say that I DON'T like him, because then I'm not under any obligation to explain anything. Saying I don't like someone is easy - I just don't like him. As a default, then, I am more likely to say I don't like something I don't understand, than to say I like something I don't understand.
This is PSYCHOLOGY. It may not seem entirely rational to you, but it has been demonstrated over and over and over again. Sociologists pretend it isn't true. Psychologists pretend it isn't true. Market researchers and Hollywood executives pretend it isn't true. And as a result they keep fucking up their business success over and over again, because they think putting a bunch of people in a room to explain why they like or don't like a thing is a good idea.
It isn't. And it has been shown not to be. But the funny thing about evidence, it can take literally decades to make something understood to the general population even where life and death is involved. Want an example for that? How long was it between understanding that soap killed disease and the universal willingness of people to "wash up" before eating?