Thursday, May 23, 2019

An Explanation and an Apology

The mandate of this blog is to express what I do and what I believe as a DM, in order that others will learn from my experience and my research how to better run their game worlds.  This presupposes that as a DM and a player, I've tried all sorts of things.  Many of those things didn't work.  Some of them did.  Through the years, I have discarded notions and ideas that didn't work, putting all my energies into things that did.

It would be stupid at this time to take a supportive position on some element of D&D that, in my opinion, doesn't work.

For example, alignment doesn't work because the definitions are so squidgy that they can't be applied properly, while players deliberately squidge the lines further because, conciously or unconsciously, they don't like having their actions judged and limited by arbitrary and ill-defined guidelines.

Point buy systems don't work because the players are endlessly channelled into seeking the biggest bang for their buck, or deliberately not doing so in order to be "individualists," resulting in the individualists having crappier characters and then harping on the inbalance that's created by some players willingly trashing character for the sake of power.  The system creates two camps of players that pursue two philosophies that run directly contrary to each other, splitting parties and ending with DMs who cannot provide adventures that will suit the prejudices of both camps at the same time.

Pre-made modules are counter-educational in that they encourage laziness in DMs (who think modifying a pre-made adventure is "work"), encourage blandness in campaign design and subsidize a game industry that has money and not game experience as it's agenda ... while supporting a media-consumption culture, who follow the cultural passive wasteland of "shared experience" instead of the active, vital possibility of shared skillsets and inventiveness.  The fact that thousands of DMs "like" modules is, in fact, the problem, in the same way that millions of people waste trillions of life years in the pursuit of drunkedness, drug use, gambling and other self-destructive behaviour ~ because it is a "quick fix" for the problem of obtaining a skillset that would make one a good DM.

I'm used to it.
I'm not going to change my opinions on these things because others think I'm wrong.  If someone will create an alignment system that players will not chafe against and DOES provide absolutely defined lines of what is what, I'll consider it.  If someone does create a point-buy system that doesn't create munchkins and those that hate them, I'll consider it.  If someone creates a module that teaches a DM how to create their own adventures and ends the dependency on modules, Hell, I'll pay the WOTC money for it.

Been 40 years of trying the first two.  And dead ignorance about any need for the third.  So I don't think it is going to happen.

The result of these positions I have, and many, many others, is a motivation on my part to say the sooth as plainly and bluntly as I'm able, because I don't want anyone to misunderstand.  I hate these things with the burning heat of a thousand suns.  And I'm going to keep saying so.

But I'll be honest.  After 2,900 posts, finding a pathway to addressing a specific subject can be trying.  I will often tour around other blogs, seeking an example of someone supporting an element of game play that I've discarded, and build a post around it.  I did this yesterday with the quote from ruprecht.

Then a thing happens.  Almost always, the person quoted discovers my use within a few hours ... even if I haven't linked to their name or their site.  In ruprecht's case, he was commenting on a blog that wasn't his ... so while Venger might have noticed a boost in page views from my blog, ruprecht wouldn't have had that notification.  Yet ruprecht's first comment arrived about an hour after I posted.  How did he know?

I have to assume that these people, the ones I strongly disagree with, read me daily.  And naturally, most take offense.  I can't blame them.  After all, I'm pissed at them, so why shouldn't they be pissed at me?

And yet, in being pissed at ruprecht, I didn't discuss it on Venger's blog.  So why does ruprecht feel perfectly justified in a confronting me on my blog?  Why doesn't ruprecht get pissed off at me on his own blog, where I can't moderate him?

It is because the audience is here.

Indulge me a moment.  I want to talk about moderation.  I still have a heading above my comments box, which ~ to remind the gentle reader, who likely ignores it every time they comment ~ says:
"Comments that quibble, derail with minutia, argue semantics, insult, ask excessive questions relating to non-post topics, waffle on without addressing the content of the post or fail to make sense, attempt to criticize the philosophy or legitimacy of this blog or its author, or otherwise fail to include a positive, friendly, useful or compassionate message, will be deleted without remorse."

When I think about it, my biggest failing as a blogger is not that commenters don't respect the above warning, but that I don't.  I don't.  Almost every time I draw out someone like ruprecht, I feel duty bound to give them an opportunity to plead their case, on my blog ~ and in the process, I utterly suspend my own warning.

Ruprecht's first two comments yesterday morning were attempts to argue semantics, quibble about what I meant and then ~ by implication ~ criticize this author with an argument that I "admit to doing the work" then "parse what is meant by work."

Plainly, infractions of the rules.  But did I uphold the rules?  No.  No, instead, I tried to define my viewpoint further, which I shouldn't have bothered doing, since he obviously didn't read the whole post.  None of his quibbles were about my statements about improvising my sessions, which de facto put me outside the box he was trying to shove me into.  An oversight I should have pointed out, instead of allowing myself to be drawn into his semantic bullshit.

It is a weakness of mine.  And every time it happens, I get pissed at myself.  And then I realize afterwards that the first damn comment should have been deleted and the whole thread nipped in the bud.

See, the problem is that every time I let myself get drawn into one of these back-and-forth contests, everyone else stops commenting.  No one wants to get involved and they don't want their thoughts lost in the peevishness that's ongoing and to which I'm contributing.  I really need to prepare myself better.  When I post one of these things, I have to take a good, hard look at the first response from the quoted individual and think, "Is this a legitimate attempt at discussion, or is this a fellow flying at me because he's pissed?"

Ruprecht could have addressed the whole post, not just his semantic definition of "preparation."  He could have recognized that defining 11 years of my posting and arguing about D&D in 16 words, given that since he appeared in my comments roll about four months ago he's nitted and picked with every phrase he's written, that I might have something to say about it.  He might have been more careful.  And I might have stomped on his troubled comments harder right from the start.

JB, Ozymandias, kimbo and about 90 other regulars have no problem having a back and forth with me, without accusations about my motivations or my delusions.  These back-and-forths are not chance, they're not accidental ... and I'm getting to the point where, from the first comment from a previously-unseen reader, I can see this one is going to be trouble.

It is something about the choice of words, or the order of sentences, or the general feel of how they're not getting the point, or what parts of the post they seem to focus on in exclusion to all else.  Most of my posts are about five or six different things ... but guys like ruprecht or Venger always wind up picking and choosing one particular thing that bites at them, personally.  And I can feel the "personal" in the way they word their sentences.

Hey, look, I don't care what horrible things people want to write about me on the internet.  Ruprecht is invited, with my full approval and encouragement, to write long, abusive posts about me ... as long as he does them on his space in front of his readers.  But I have to curtail that shit here; because honestly, I owe an apology to every regular of mine for not deleting ruprecht's first two comments right out of the gate.

I'm sorry, Dear Readers.  I am sorry.


Ozymandias said...

Personally, I appreciate this if only because it helps me better understand language and writing. I've been seeing more and more of this in social media circles; it helps to have it explained in a clear manner.

For what it's worth, thank you, if only for the reminder of the standards we set for ourselves.

JB said...

Apology accepted, man.
; )

Dennis Laffey said...

It's so easy to get sucked in by these discussions on the internet, and they rarely have a pay-off. So I don't fault you for that, Alexis. ruprecht was intent on "winning" or whatever, and didn't seem to be paying attention to anything you wrote on that thread.

I think most of us regular readers could grasp the difference between preparing for a session and tinkering with and fine-tuning the rules of the game. He couldn't, or didn't want to.

There's no need to apologize in my book. The discussion in the comments was actually worthwhile for me, as it allowed me to pay attention to that distinction and think a bit more deeply about it. It's something that I understood before reading your post and the comments, but hadn't been consciously considering until I read your back and forth yesterday.