Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Yesterday, I performed a humiliating, public face-plant on Twitter.  There is no other way to describe it, except to add more synonyms for the word humiliating.  And although only a fool draws attention to his shortcomings and failures, I'd like to talk about it, rather than pretend it never happened and hope that no one ever finds out about it.

The fault was mine.  For years, I had been building a false story in my head, which I hadn't properly researched and was based on assumptions I had made, based on misreadings of things that I have seen.  Some of these things want me to make excuses for my behaviour, but ... though I'm going to talk about them, the reality is that I should have done my research before getting myself into a bad, stupid, incalculable moment of ignorance.

To begin.  I have had a hate for Sly Flourish, real name Mike Shea, since reading his book, The Lazy Dungeon Master.  I made myself read the book in preparation for writing my own How to Run book; and oh yeah, how I hated it.  There are a lot of things about this book that I do not like, even before getting into the actual content.  To begin with, the title.  I'm a fanatic where D&D is concerned, so this is a trigger for me.  I view the title in the same way I would view a book named, "A How to for the Lazy Doctor" or "A How to for the Lazy Engineer."  I recognize that a lot of people don't take the game as seriously as I do ... but I also recognize that there are a lot of abused people out there in role-playing games, because many DMs, especially those with official status, don't give a shit about people.

Secondly, the pen name.  Mike Shea and his readers no doubt think this name is very cool, pulled from a phrase in 4th edition, meaning an at-will power available to rogues at 1st level.  Being a person able to look at language outside of its fandom credentials, I veiw the word "sly" as deceitful and duplicitous, and the word "flourish" as waving to attract attention, usually so a different fucker can steal my wallet.

So yeah, I don't think it's a very cool name.

The book itself is full of meaningless drivel.  For example, under "Preparing for Improvisation," Shea writes,

"There's a careful balance between feeling prepare and feeling relaxed. The less you're prepared, the more nervous you might feel. Preparing for improvisation steers you the right way. Fill your toolkit with aids for improvisation instead of tools that force your game down one particular track.  You can find many of these tools in Appendix A."

This is it.  The whole section.  Appendix A gives nothing in the way of improvisation hints.  Appendix A does include one-sentence lists of adventure seeds, movie-inspired quests, adventure locations, fantasy names, NPC character frameworks, PC relationships, combat outs, encounter-wide environmental effects, encounter terrain effects and "20 Things That Never Should Have Been Found."  These are all fairly cliche.

Most of the sections of the book go into the headlined subjects with this much depth.  Many discuss the subject with less depth.  Many parts of the book send you to read other people or listen to someone's podcast.

Anyway, forget the book. The reader can invest themselves if they wish.  I, as I said, hated the experience.

Now, this is the part where I began to dig my own grave.  For various reasons, I came under the impression that Mike Shea, Sly Flourish, was one of the minions of Wizards of the Coast.  He isn't.  Nevertheless, at the end of The Lazy DM, it does say that Mike is "a freelance writer for Wizards of the Coast."  Somehow, seeing this, or things like it, got into my brain like a worm that wasn't about to let go.

It didn't help that Shea titles his writings like this:  A Guide to Official D&D 5th Edition Published AdventuresOr that he has a page called the "Neverwinter Wiki" that features a WOTC Dungeons and Dragons logo in the upper left hand corner.  Or that his blog has his tongue so far up into the WOTC's butt its hard to see his shoulders.  This, however, was all just my impression.  Shea is a freelance writer, putting out his own stuff just like I am.  He is not a part of the WOTC.


So ... Monday, when I came across a tweet from Sly Flourish on my twitter about how it was minimally necessary to spend at least $900 in order to publish an acceptably quality adventure for the sale, I saw my opportunity to get involved.  I piped up and said that I had done it for free, and that it wasn't actually necessary to spend any money.  I was thinking of Ternketh Keep, that I wrote in 2016.

At once I was jumped by a number of Flourish's followers, who first mocked me, then insulted my privilege at being a writer, a copywriter, an editor, an artist and a great story teller all at the same time, as in "How Dare You Be Talented" when the rest of us are just normal creators.  I must admit, this got my blood up.  So, too, did Shea's reply, when he said that he couldn't edit like [name drop] or draw like [name drop] or lay out content like [name drop], in a very salesman-like manner.  I did not want this fellow to sell me his contacts, I wanted him to engage.

Took me two days, but I steadily preached the message of self-publishing and training yourself to perform skills, so a creator wouldn't have to rely on Sly Flourish's cronies, who I assumed worked for the WOTC ...

... and the face-plant came when I said so.


So I said I was wrong and apologized.  And let them beat me up for awhile, and I repeated that I had been wrong and apologized some more, and still more. And Shea graciously called his dogs off me, and acted like a wonderful fellow, accepting my apology.  I apologized again, grovelling as best I can, accepting that yes, I'm obviously a doof.

And I am.  I wanted so bad to finally have at one of those smug, self-righteous know-it-alls from the WOTC that I walked right into being hoisted on my own petard.

Of course [and I don't deny it], I am a smug, self-righteous know-it-all from the Tao of D&D.  And ten times the asshole any of those guys are who are earning a living re-inventing the same crap from 20 years ago with a paint-job and selling it to kids for $60 a copy.  But I'm an asshole who is at least writing new material.  So yeah, I want to talk to one of these guys and get them to admit they don't really care about the game, they just like the paycheque.

I wanted this too much.  And that's what hubris is about.  Wanting something too much, and getting it right in the neck.

I thought about hiding it.  That was the smart thing to do.  Writing this post is the stupid thing to do.  But it is also the Alexis thing to do, so ... I guess it's that I don't want to pretend that I'm something I'm not.  If I'm going to highlight my successes, its only fair that I also highlight my failures, my stupidities, my prejudices and my insufferable hubris.

The fact that I am launching a public podcast is all the more reason to come clean.


Mike Shea has read the post and asked me to remove the link to the illegal copy of his book.  I have done so.  Shea also says that the link on Neverwinter nights with the title "Sly Flourish" refers to the ability, but not to HIM.  That's a pity.  I'm not removing the link for that; I did not know one from the other.  That's because I did not do the research ~ but that's what the post is about.  I saw the name he chose associated with a WOTC site and made a wrong assumption.  How many others, I wonder, have also made the same wrong assumption?


Huy Tran said...

Wow Alexis. Well, live and learn. If we cannot make mistakes, then what's the whole point of it all? You owned up to the consequences, you're self-reflective about why things happened the way they did, and you apologized. There's not much else to do.

Pandred said...

Last time I faceplanted that hard I swore off the internet for a few weeks.

That's a tough pill to swallow, so good on you.

JB said...

Always better to pillory yourself than wait for someone else to do it. Anyway, being humiliated is a good way to find some humility for ourselves...and (so long as you don’t let it beat down your self esteem and stop your action) it’s always good to operate from a position of humility.

But I’d guess you already know that.
; )