Thursday, January 9, 2014

Get the Fuck Off My Lawn

About three and a half years ago I wrote a very unpleasant, squicky post relating the buying of modules and dependency on corporate produced materials to breast feeding. This is getting a lot of traction recently on 4chan, a board populated mostly by idiots and a few rational people who apparently have nowhere else to go but 4chan. They have my sympathy. The idiots are pretty disgusted with me (link is dead now) and my choice of metaphor, while perfectly fine with the repulsive image that has been chosen to go along with the link. Well, what the fuck, it's 4chan. It is nice to think that rants I banked three years ago are paying dividends now. Let that be a lesson to the gentle reader - get your rants in the ground now, if you want to reap the harvest come fall.

I am somewhat amused by the need to associate/compare me and Zak over at Playing D&D with Porn Stars. Zak and I are, for those who may not know, diametrically polar opposites in the gaming community. No, that's not right. I mean that we are both really cool people with our own way of doing things. No, I don't think that's it either. Zak is really laid back, and I'm a freaked out reactionary with obsessions about realism. Also, Zak has porn stars.

My own take on it is that I'm scholarly and informed, and that occasionally I finish something that I start, while Zak shoots shit at walls with a shotgun and always has something new going. That's my perception, of course. The perception I got from not reading his blog any more because none of his ideas ever seemed to coalesce, correlate or juxtapose in anything except the need to splatter continuously about the artistic premise upon which he lives his life.

But I suppose that he and I are going to be linked somehow for a long time, because I haven't stopped blogging, and he hasn't stopped blogging. We've both been doing this for more than five years, and in the blogging universe, five years is pretty unusual. Every single blog I used to read five years ago - political blogs, gaming blogs, history blogs, film blogs - are all dead and gone now. So as long as Zak doesn't stop, and I don't stop, we're going to be two peas in a pod, even though we have no time whatsoever for each other's work, nor any respect for it.

By now, his crowd has left this blog, more or less. I remember one of the reasons I wrote the breast feeding post was because I was sick to death of getting comments like, "Have you read this really brilliant soft-cover booklet that this company you never heard of put out five years ago? It totally shows how everything you've just said is only HALF THE STORY!" That was beginning to bug me, so I thought I would write a post that would just piss the shit out of all those people and emphasize what I was doing with my world and my perception of gaming.

See, the thing about that sort of comment is its vagueness and its pretentiousness. If I were to make a point about, say, the Peloponnesian War, I wouldn't simply say, "Well, you know, it's like Thucydides wrote. You gotta not make the mistakes the Athenians made. That's how it is with monsters and players - if you know what I mean." And then never mention Thucydides or the Athenians again. Sure, you ought to read the book. Sure, Athens made mistakes. But if I just toss that in without explanation, without a paragraph describing it to people who may not have read Thucydides, may not know what book he wrote or remotely what mistakes Athens made, then I'm just a pretentious asshole. I'm saying, "Well fuck you if you haven't read the books I read. I can't be bothered to bring you up to speed."

Now, I have said, "Fuck you if you WON'T read the books I've read." That's different. That's your willful ignorance. But its reasonable to assume you haven't gotten around to Thucydides, there are a lot of books in the world, there's no reason why you should necessarily read that one in the next five minutes so that you'll get the point I'm making right now. In the meantime, let me fill you in on the relative details so you'll get it.

This is not what I get from the module-lovers. Of course I'm going to run right the fuck out and buy that totally obscure book because a reader posted the title with an obscure reference to something they meant. Nevermind that whenever I do pick up something at the local gaming store and look at it, I see the same dull bullshit that's been around for decades. The same can be said for what's on line.

So when someone says, as Yarivandel wrote yesterday, that there is this great book, it would be NICE if more can be said than "It is about this." Is it? Great. I assumed someone would write a book about that. I'm not sure why I should give a shit. Particularly if you, the commenter, can't take as many as 300 words to explain exactly WHY I should. Yes, I can tell how moved you were. You wrote a sentence.

For the record, I have plenty of things to read. And to do. And source material to work from. Not looking for more. REALLY not looking for whatever shit WOTC turned out ... ever.

So, yeah, wrote the breast feeding post. Wrote it very meanly. Wanted to really, seriously, piss off people I didn't so much want around. And I remember it worked rather well.

The question would be, who am I trying to piss off now? No one, actually. Doing so is just my default position. I would like it, however, that IF you want to rush to tell me about something I should read, or write a post about something you think is interesting, spend a thousand words, survey the subject COMPLETELY, and pass along that information in as much entirety as possible. Don't just mention the thing. Prove it's value.

The title, by the way, is only because I've been accused of saying that many times, and I've never actually said it.


I'm curious how long it will take someone to go back into my vast record of posts and find an offhanded reference to a resource I didn't explain.


Jomo Rising said...

Well, you do have at least one faithful reader who also likes Zak's stuff. When I am preparing for a game I am running, I like to drown in all things D&D, especially those things that are more than platitudes and criticisms of OTHER D&D products/thoughts. I like original thought, although for some reason that sounds silly.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I solemnly promise I shall produce something more substantial tomorrow, Jomo.

Yarivandel said...

My apologies for violating the local etiquette. I merely mentioned the book on the grounds that your comment about the lost Kingdom of Rappolstein would indicate you were interested in such 'lost history'. There aren't in fact many works devoted to the subject and Norman Davies is quite a respectable historian. For me such reference would be enough in terms that I would use it should I decide the subject interests me. I did not know that in your case a some form of summary would be more proper. In future I will refrain from mentioning any literary works if I don't feel like writing at least 1,000 words on the subject. This is after all, as you put it, 'your lawn'.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Don't let it worry you, Yarivandel. I've never heard of Norman Davies. There's no reason I should have. There are thousands of 'respectable historians.'

I have always been somewhat annoyed by the tactic of 'smart people' who name book titles instead of talking. You could have said, "You know another really great kingdom? This. And this too. And this one was around in the 15th century. I got all of them from this book (linked)."

Instead, you wrote a short hand version of, "I know something you don't."

As it happens, my knowledge of Rappolstein doesn't come from an interest in ancient kingdoms. I am steadily researching thousands of cities (9200 at last count) all over the world, in every part of the world, as part of the process to work out a) how old they are; b) who controlled them in 1650; and c) how many times have they suffered extreme violence. I'm also researching their lat/long and elevation for map plotting purposes. I just happened to come across Rappolstein because Ribeauville was next on the list.

While yes, your suggestion was polite, and probably intentionally helpful, it would have required that I do the work, and that basically I should recover huge amounts of ground I've already covered in my own research. I've been reading material on tiny areas of Europe, the Middle East and India for eight years now. This is something you failed to take into account.

It would be like telling a cellist employed with the symphony that he ought to look into this Haydn guy; you've heard he wrote some great stuff.

Shouldn't you get to know someone really well before telling them what to read, when they didn't ask to be told?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Part II.

This is why I wrote the post. People just assume whomeever they're talking to doesn't know. It's a pretentious assumption. Even if it is meant well, it still assumes that, probably, the person you're speaking to hasn't some other research that covers the same topic. I didn't pick Rappolstein for the previous post because it was the only one I knew. I picked it because it was the one near my friend. I could just as easily picked a dozen others. But I don't have a friend in Silesia, or Bundelkhand, or in Zikri. So those didn't seem valuable for the point I was making.

But rather that simply accept the point, and say, "Yes, I guess there is a lot in the world that can be discovered," you took that tack, "Well I read this book about rare, lost kingdoms, so I'm up on that subject." Or it was possibly, "Yah, yah, sure there's that one kingdom, but listen, I'm going to educate you about others by naming this author and his book."

I've never really understood this method of interaction. You're a bright guy, Yarivandel. You could say something to me in your own right, with your own point of view and your own ideas, and come out with a whole argument justifying the superiority of Oz, or some other fanciful setting. Instead, all you say is that "Well, I'm not changing my mind."

Why not? Why not change your mind. Is it so painful? Is there so much to be lost there? Or is it just that you've grown used to thinking as you have. I don't get it. I absolutely love changing my mind. I wish to hell I could do it more often. Only, people don't take the time to tell me why I should do it.

They just say, "hey, read this book."

Sadly, I'm reading a different book right now. And it's changing my mind. So, busy. Sorry. It's not how things work in my yard. It's just how things work.

Jay Murphy said...

I like Zack for the raw creativity, i like Alex for the spelling.

Giordanisti said...

Not intending to offend, Jay, but I find it too funny that you mention spelling and then misspell both names (Zak and Alexis)

Chain said...

I found out about the tit-sucking post on 4chan, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've just started to run an exploration based game that I've wanted to run for a while and I just started to poke at that Kingmaker module for inspiration when I managed to find what you wrote.

I realised I was being lazy. I mean, I'm pretty fucking lazy, but I take pride in doing my own shit. But I realized that I was about to gank everything from that module and just pretend it was mine. But that shit about people who have been dming for 2 to 3 years should know enough to do it on their own really stuck.

Then I read the first chunk (book of the adventure path) of that module...

it fucking blows.

I can do better than that shit.

I like the format though, I suck at formatting. Use hexes to explore land? Sounds cool. I'm sure you've done something like that but I'm a dumbass so it helped to smack that into my head. But my god they did so little wit hthat concept... fuck.

Point is, I need to stop picking through old modules and shit when I'm lacking an idea. I do that too much and I don't end up with anything in the end. Hell, in the past couple of days since I've read your article I've done more than I would have.

so... TLDR: Thanks for smacking me upside the head. I needed it and my players will benefit for it.

Yarivandel said...

Alexis, point taken.
My remark was by no means aiming at lecturing you about things you supposedly don’t know. I admit it was carefree to give it in such a casual manner. I don’t know you, but after reading your blog for some time I could never assume that I had any basis on lecturing you about history or geography for that matter.
It was supposed to be friendly sharing of resources, but turned out to be clumsy than anything else. Metaphor with the cellist very well-put. Thus my apology.
Also, the general problem of giving advice, though my comment was not intended as such ‘go and read this, your life will improve’. If not asked for, advice (good or bad) is not likely to be welcomed. I failed to see that while writing the comment.
Now, back to the Oz vs Earth subject:

I've never really understood this method of interaction. You're a bright guy, Yarivandel. You could say something to me in your own right, with your own point of view and your own ideas, and come out with a whole argument justifying the superiority of Oz, or some other fanciful setting. Instead, all you say is that "Well, I'm not changing my mind."

I can see you’re disappointed with my lack of argument here  I will do my best to provide for my part. However I see it more in terms of utility. Correct me if I am wrong here, but the main point in using the ‘real’ maps, ‘real cities’ and ‘real names’ is that you don’t have to waste time on reinventing the wheel. It was written in one of your first posts. You were trying to make the players see the fantastical cities of Gor, but to them it was ‘just another city’. But if you start referring to London or Paris (or Baltimore) then they would immediately grasp the idea. So the maps, the history, the culture is fuel for your imagination and an aid to your game.
At least this is something that I often do, whenever I see and interesting landscape, a place, a medieval castle or hear an interesting story I note it down, take pictures, get floor plans etc. and later use it somehow in my game. So the ‘real’ is there though it’s placed in a fantastical world.
I don’t think it is possible to explain why ‘the world of Oz’ has this appeal to me, but I’ll try. It is about longing for something possibly alien to our world. It is like fantasizing about discovering a new habitable planet somewhere there in another galaxy. Sure, if it is habitable for the man, then it probably will not be very different from Earth. But it will not be Earth and that’s the point. It’s about pure escapism for escapism’s sake. I find it quite funny that I, accusing Vampire the Masquerade players of being pretensious, am writing this. The idea is romantic to the core and some people downright loathe it (as well as some part of me).
Another reason is also very personal. For years I have been playing campaigns in Warhammer which was, especially in my country, commonly customized to resemble XVI century Europe. An almost no magic setting, if there was any magic at all it was evil. The typical adversary was another man, no fantastical races. After a time players even stopped using demihuman races. It was a very dark and grey setting with a strong accent on recreating the reality of late medieval Europe. For some reason, in our gaming community this has become a trend and then the only way to play. As an expression of it a game was published, Monastyr, that introduced a setting of rennesaince Europe where magic is about burning witches and all demihumans are enemies with whom the humans are at war. It was fun, but after a time I felt trapped in this. So now as a mean of compensation I try to use as little of these aspects in my game as possible. It’s purely emotional reaction, not an intellectual process.
So I really don’t feel you need to change your mind about this. It is a matter of personal taste. At least I don’t see any objective reason why Oz is better than Earth.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Romance, I very much understand.

Thank you for your answer, Yarivandel. And the lack of objectivity does not weaken your argument.

Allow me to point out, however, that as this is roleplaying, and D&D, there's no reason in the world why the party CAN'T find themselves in Oz. I have tornadoes in my world. Wardrobes too, if I am anxious to let my party into Narnia. A ship will take them to Middle Earth, if piloted just so, while an underground cavern might lead straight into the heart of ... well, anywhere. A titan could hurl them into space, where they would find themselves on the planet Mars, fighting with John Carter for the safety of Dejah Thoris.

So you see, romance. A real world does not preclude the presence of unreal worlds, hidden away behind magic doors.

Alexis Smolensk said...


YOU ARE THE REASON I WRITE THIS BLOG. You're also the reason I am writing my book, and the reason I ignore people who just don't get it, and the reason I go on shouting and ranting like a lunatic.

Because ... it works. People wake up. DMs learn. Their game gets a rush of enlightenment, and the players are suddenly saying, "Wow, the world has really been great lately." And then you know its because of what YOU'VE done, and not some stranger, because yes, by all that's precious, you ARE a DM. It's not just a label.

Well done, Sir. Congratulations upon your will and decision to change your mind and make your world a better place. It's your world. It's your victory. You have all the weapons you need.

Now fight.