Thursday, September 2, 2010

Yes, Sorry, I Care

I see. I understand now.
  • Although excellence is stymied by the huge flexibility of the game, flexibility is too important to be restrained.
  • In fact, there are large numbers of editorials promoting excellence – I’m simply incapable of recognizing what excellence is.
  • Excellence is restricted only to those with social skills, and social skills can't be taught.
  • I shouldn’t give a shit about other people who aren’t excellent.
  • As long as I am excellent, no one else matters.
  • No one is as excellent as me anyway.
  • Since it is impossible to satisfy both teacher and student, don’t bother.
  • I’m drunk.
  • Grants take effort.
  • All of this has something to do with someone named Joesky who can’t spell on his blog.
Well, that’s very nice. I appreciate the praise where it was given, and I honestly appreciate that most of you were making an effort to present a fair case. And yes, I don’t need the rest of the world to run this game, and I certainly don’t need the company of stupid people. For the record, I don’t regularly come into contact with real life sucky games, and I’m not as mad as I might sound.

The editorial style implies the stirring of the pot, to draw the meat up from the bottom and encourage it to meld with the consomme at the top. The longer the stew is allowed to settle, the more clear and tasteless is the liquid that gathers on the surface. If we endlessly write out material that ‘leaves things as they are,’ the more bland the fare we have to eat. That is why, when you serve soup, you do it from the bottom, to bring up the victuals that have drawn in the taste.

It costs me no energy to do this. I am quite comfortable in the ‘rant mode,’ as it might be described. To write scathing, bitter sarcasm is as easy as writing out lines of dialogue or to explain the function of making soup. If I were going to mention writing that’s actually HARD, I’d have to say description of anything that’s not moving.

But we’re moving, so let me readdress the issue.

People suck at this game. And while I appreciate that it is the god-given right of a large number of idiots to suck at anything they want, include trailer hitches (I knew this girl in Kelowna ... but that’s another story). I could quite easily embrace the apathy expressed that these people don’t matter a wit and fuck them.

My problem with that is this: that I can’t tell the difference between those that actively want to suck and those that haven’t any choice – because they haven’t anywhere to turn. And when I think about the latter, I get passionate. I am of the opinion that if there is expertise, and there are people without it who want it, then there ought to be some fucking way to put A and B together. No matter how fucking hard it is, or how fucking unnecessary it is, or how fucking unimportant it is to every other motherfucker on the fucking net. Is that fucking clear?

Sorry. The stew on the bottom of the pot was starting to burn.

Now, in addressing Mincer’s question, “Are there that many players falling out of the hobby because they can’t find a satisfactory GMing experience?”

The answer is yes. A resounding goddamn yes. To the tune of millions of people, who tried playing this game once in high school (when it sucked) and then once again in college (when it sucked) and then one more time when they saw their children playing it (when it STILL sucked). If you’re going to embrace the suck, then you earn the derision of every person familiar enough with the game to have seen it played.

Frankly, it bothers me somewhat that a thing that I love deeply and passionately is seen as a freaking joke – and with good reason. The way that a great many other people in the world play, it is a goddamn joke.

Everytime I sit down at this blog to write another post about my investment with the game, I have to restrain myself with both hands and a virtual reality doberman to keep from simply lifting posts from other D&D blogs and cutting them up line by line. That disturbs me. I ought to be able to stretch out for a few hours and read about the good work that’s being done, the practical efforts to tackle issues or solve lingering problems, like what to do about that rancid list of NPC attributes on page 100 of the DMG, or parsing out the dungeoneering style of most players and how one might raise the bar for one’s players ...

You know, the way its done with every other hobby on earth. Holy shit, do you think fishermen give a rat’s ass about the ‘flexibility’ in methods to hold a fishing rod? People sit down and work out methodological ways to hold a rod depending on the kind of fish ... and if you go fishing, you’ll notice that everyone is holding the damn thing exactly the same way. Because it works. Because it isn’t about personalities or increasing one’s own happiness or fifty other bullshit phrases, its about NOT dropping the rod when the fish hits. This is all I am talking about. I don’t give a butterfly’s rear about whether or not the students are happy ... can they draw a dungeon that doesn’t look like it’s done with crayons by a six-year-old? Hooray, you’re competent now.

You know, where it comes to ‘social skills,’ they teach comportment, they teach public speaking, they teach acting, they teach diction and they teach psychology. Hells bells, there’s nothing in the world you can’t pony up dough to learn – every local library in the country has fifty to a hundred courses on everything. Don’t tell me we can’t teach a few DMs out there to put some marbles in their mouths.

Hey, I know.  But I care.  I’m 46 in two weeks and I have the energy to care.  Where do I get the energy to care?

How fucking hard has the world been on you that you don't?


jgbrowning said...

"In fact, there are large numbers of editorials promoting excellence – I’m simply incapable of recognizing what excellence is."

You've misunderstood this point of mine. You've determined that what you think is excellence is excellence and you've also determined what you think isn't excellence isn't. Never did I say you can't recognize excellence. I'm saying that you believe that your view of excellence is a shared view instead of a personal view.

The point was that, in the immortal words of The Dude " Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man..."

Don't be surprised if what you think it crap is actually gold to someone else. This is about aesthetics.

Everyone of those "doofuses" who have the NEW answer to How to Play the Game DO have that answer and are teaching. You just don't like what's being taught.

"Excellence is restricted only to those with social skills, and social skills can't be taught."

Again, you misunderstand my point. I did not say those skills can't be taught, I showed that they ARE being taught, but again just not to your liking.

How many books are there about becoming a good salesmen? Thousands. Are they all crap too? Where are the real good books on selling? Why are there so many "doofuses" in the sales industry?

To an experienced salesman, how good is book #540 really going to be after one's read the previous 539? Why doesn't 540 have new great insights into selling?

Alexis said...

Thank you JG, for the effort.

I don't know what excellence is. I know what it ain't.

jgbrowning said...

Excellence in gaming is highly dependent upon the skill level of the audience in addition to the preferences (spoken and unspoken and known and unknown) of the audience. You're a high-level learner. Trying to find excellence is very difficult for you. Much of what you'll see will seem trite or boring or crappy. Look at a book like Gamemastery Secrets. Tons of cool stuff, but for me, another high-level learner, it wasn't that great of a read. I knew most of it already.

One other thing I've noticed you focusing on is the accoutrements of the game. The game isn't the writing, the art, the mapping, the grammar or anything of the sort found in product. The game is only the play - everything else isn't the game. It's like the difference between playing chess with an expensive set or a cheep set - the excellence of the game has nothing to do with the materials of the game. The game is ephemera, an internal state.

Finally, teaching how to play well is much more difficult for rpging than for something like chess or even go. There is no winning, there is no right way to hook a fish, no proper way to restore a car. There is no better way to play unless it directly leads to more fun. The only thing that is sought in rpging is fun. And fun is a massively mutable term based only upon audience preference. Fun can't be taught like one can teach someone to improve at chess or go because the goal is, at the heart of it, undefinable. And if an attempt ad definition is made, it has probably been so compartmentalized that it won't be of much use to most people. May may even find it pointless.

I imagine trying to teach people how to have fun is like trying to teach people how to grow up, or get over a bad thing that happened in their past. It's something that one can sort of lead people to find on their own by asking the right questions - but its something tremendously personal.

And all of us do care, you know. We wouldn't be responding if we didn't have a similar passion as you.

All, of course, IMO.

JB said...

Hmm...I was perhaps being a might to flip when I said I was too lazy to apply for a grant.

I feel your pain, sir...I do, I do. I have tried a bit of deconstruction of D&D on my blog in the hopes of giving folks some insights into the underpinnings of the game...even if it is a game that I prefer to work with within the scopes of its own abstract rules and limitations. I DO believe people should have better gaming experiences than they do, which is why I run my games the way I do...when I GET the opportunity to introduce people they tend to come back for more. And I do this through a variety of techniques, none of which include hyper-realism, but many that are developed from my (skewed perspective perhaps) insight into that which makes the game "tick."

But teaching it? I don't get paid to teach, even in my normal day job. Blogging is fun and takes little energy (especially the rants, as you note). I try to open some minds, I try to inspire, I grind my axes, and I hope that some folks are entertained. Maybe when I'm retired from my day job, I'll be able to put on a seminar or two, but that's a tough idea for me to contemplate right now...even if I stopped blogging and put that effort into developing a curriculum, it would take more effort than I'm willing to spend at this point. And MY take on running a kick-ass game might be very different from your own ideas.

Zak S said...

"I don’t give a butterfly’s rear about whether or not the students are happy ... can they draw a dungeon that doesn’t look like it’s done with crayons by a six-year-old? Hooray, you’re competant now."

I think herein we encounter the absolutely fundamental assumption:

I believe you're saying it's rational to say that someone having fun playing the game could be, in some way, "bad" at it.


I am with whatever TSR writer said "The object of the game is to have fun".

So: just as you cannot possibly argue with the technical prowess of a fisherman who catches lots of fish--whatever the method--likewise, I cannot argue with a DM who is having fun and whose players are having fun--whatever the method.


There are other people who would agree with you--that having fun is not the goal and that it's possible to measure the quality of a DM by some other metric. James Raggi is one.

I suppose one possible alternate metric would be:

Can you run a con game smoothly such that anyone who joins would have at least a little fun?

Could you show up to a con game and "beat" the dungeon no matter how difficult it was and how crappy your character was?

Though if you're never at cons, this seems like a rather abstract goal.


So here's my question:

A fisherman's goal is to catch the maximum biomass of quality fish.

What's the goal of DMing if not "maximum fun for everyone at the table by whatever means necessary"?

(Granting that the term "fun" often involves the enjoyment of productive or quasiproductive intellectual labor.)


I grant that you may need a certain number of I's dotted and T's crossed in order to have fun, but if someone else can have fun playing the game without even knowing--say--that nonmoving targets should generally be attacked with missile weapons from a distance--then what does the world lose?


As a painter, only I can judge the quality of my art, but DMing is like throwing a party, what I do has to be judged by the amount of enjoyment had at the table. It's social. It's a situation where my happiness DEPENDS on the happiness of those around me. I can't say "well nobody else likes this party I threw, but it's good anyway" and I can't say "All these people I know and like are having fun and so am I and all possible social goals are being achieved at it, but this party actually sucks"

I'm sorry if I 'm misunderstanding you.

I don't mean to be provocative--I honestly am curious, here.

If quickly drawing a crude map in crayon does the trick and lets the player move on to that which s/he sees as productive and interesting, then precisely what attending god is being neglected here?

Alexis said...

JG and Zak,

Long, thought out answers thrill me. Thank you both.

JG, you will find evidence of my being able to run, as well as putting together the metadata, on the page, "Tao's Campaign," when I was running a campaign online by blog.

Zak, I believe I answered almost every question you asked in the post itself. When I made the argument about people 'sucking,' you're right, I didn't mention that some of those people were having fun.

But if you look around, most people aren't. Most people complain about not being able to find a good game. Most people are sick to death of what they can find. You only need to read and take note.

What attending god? The millions of people who aren't playing.

Zak S said...

So you're saying the people having fun now will soon cease to have fun because of the technical incompetence of their game?

Or you're saying that there are secret malcontents at their tables who will leave?

Or you're saying that if everyone at the tale is having fun sucking then these aren't the people you're worried about, it's the people who have different standards who are unfortunate enough to stumble into their game?

i.e. how are these fun-havers generating nonfun and.or nonplaying?

Alexis said...

Different standards. Like mature vs. infantile. I believe I've read some things about that.

Zak S said...

Ok, sure, but by precisely what mechanism does the "infantile" game come into contact with the "mature" game?

They're just some people who don't know each other off playing separate games somewhere

Alexis said...

I'm amused, Zak. Are you suggesting, overall with these comments, that it is somehow my ambition to be the murderer of fun?

Zak S said...

No no no no no no no!

This isn't some dumb "OSR debate". This is me absolutely interested in this interesting discussion about an interesting philosophical subject.

I HONESTLY want to know the specifics of where you stand here (or, more precisely, why you stand there) and am having trouble pinning them down.

I believe you have a consistent and basically rational set of beliefs. I just don't understand the Why's of it.

And what I want to know is:

Group A enjoys a certain kind of play style.

Player/DM B doesn't.

How is it that Player/DM B could possibly be discouraged from playing the game by the presence of Group A.

I don't get it.


You could say that Player B played once with Group A and it sucked so Player B stopped playing, but then is the solution -really- to tell Group A to play in a different way? Would they enjoy that?

Alexis said...

Zak, that’s fair.

Perhaps I am just a snob about Group B’s style.

But I don’t think so. In addition to having played the game for a long time, I’ve also had a chance to watch the phenomenon of people falling away from the game. There has long been a pattern of people playing the upfront, soft-cover red book game until it grows wearisome and repetitive, to the point where they become highly jaded. At this point most do what is natural … they play less and less, and finally not at all.

The ‘fun type’ game whose virtues are often sung online has a definite lifespan, and it isn’t that long. Night after night of non-serious play begins to grow wearisome, and as people mature they begin to realize that the game isn’t necessary to have a good time. Fun is had with less effort and the need for less goofiness.

But where the game challenges a deeper perspective, where it does more than ‘provide fun,’ it has more potential for the long term gain.

Those people you quote, who say, in the end the game is about fun, were worried about DMs having power that would overshadow the game and wreck it for others. I could write a whole post about the game coming out of the psychology departments of the late 60s in its mentality, its fear of sociological empowerment and other semi drug-culture references. All that phrase is really saying is, “Be Cool, Man.”

I’m a more technological proponent of the game, and I feel that if the game is approached, from the beginning, as a structural framework for bringing out more from people than just their ability to laugh – which is an important component, though not the only one – that the game will get under the skin in a greater sense then just some fucking thing to do on a Saturday night.

But to have that, the players of the game must have more on their minds than jackassery. I perceive a serious pursuit into examination of the self and the potential for creation, realized through interaction with others – NOT just those at this table, but potentially those at other tables as well, at the same time, where gaming groups link up into a single, intershared world. We’re on the verge of the communication breakthrough, but the constant insistence that this is MY world and that is YOUR world … the absolute impossibility of rising above petty proprietary thinking, makes that impossible.

Why the hell couldn’t you and I, say, work together towards agreed-upon rules we would both play by, linking our two worlds together as alternate universes if necessary, to allow for players in either of our worlds to move freely back and forth between both campaigns knowing that ALL the rules don’t have to be different every other night? Tell me why.

Zak S said...


Ok, that all seems reasonable. 2 points:

1-Game groups grow more--I won't say more "serious"--but they grow more in some direction over time. Sometimes this direction is "more serious". But sometimes it's not--Jeff Rients' is nothing if not a veteran gamer and--reading through the entries in the gameblog--his games seem to get more gonzo every day.

Like all artists, gamers tastes change. And the direction of that change is not predictable. We can only ask that they be smart enough to change their game--with or without help--to keep up with themselves.

The only problem with this paradigm is when the gamers in a group don;t realize that their game CAN change. This, I grant, is a real problem, but the people who have it probably don't know about you or me or the OSR or the forge or anybody else who's having this discussion.

2) Why don't we make a shared world with shared rules? Hey, sounds fun. I'd do that. But only if I could guarantee that one day all the pain-in-the-ass of that would pay off in me and the girls actually getting to play at your place in your campaign.

If that;'s never going to happen, then I don't see what advantage that provides.

3) This is a real question: Do you see no advantage in having a thousand different variations on the game run in different styles by different DMs? As biology and art benefit from diversity, why not games?

One omnirelevant megaworld is exciting (and appeals to the hardcore worldbuilding simulationist in me for obvious reasons) but so is the concept of a million authors writing a million stories in a million styles. Agree? Or not?

Zak S said...

that was 2 points and a question, actually, wasn't it?

Chris Lowrance said...

Jumping in *way* over my head here, but this seems like largely a debate over definition.

Are RPGs, or D&D specifically, a game? A sport? An art form?

There is no value judgment there - I didn't ask if it was *just* a game. These are the three ways in which I see DMs approach what D&D is and what they think it should be.

Obviously everything has elements of the three. Baseball is a game to most, a sport to many and an art to a select few. I fish - to me it's a meditative art and I don't care particularly about catching a lot fish, more fish than the other guy, or even if I'm always using the exact right lure for the time of day, wind speed and which direction I dressed to that morning. To a lot of people, though, fishing is pure sport and it's ALL about those things.

Likewise, I play D&D. I do it because it spurs my creativity, is fun and allows me to assist others in having fun. I am by no means an expert DM, I wasn't alive when most of the books most beloved of the OSR came out, and at the end of the day it's not nearly as important to me as it is to you.

But my players enjoy themselves. If they played in your or Zak's campaigns, from what I've read, they wouldn't. Not because you aren't good DMs, but because we run vastly different campaigns from each other.

So, there's a handful of people that wouldn't be playing if my way of doing things didn't exist. Thus, I fail to see how a D&D monoculture would draw in those millions that aren't playing now.

jgbrowning said...

I think of Fun as the pleasant emotion found in enjoying the trivial and also the pleasant emotion found in enjoying the substantial. Those definitions, trivial and substantial, change quite a bit from person to person, however.

For example, I'd find something like "a serious pursuit into examination of the self and the potential for creation, realized through interaction with others" thoroughly non-enjoyable.

As jerkish as it may sound I'm already fully examined and creative. I've done that, it's over. The only thing in the world that I really know is myself. The thought of watching others who have not fully examined themselves and their creativity deliberately do so is very tedious to me. It's one of the main reason why I hate drama - drama is mostly what happens when people make bad decisions because they don't understand themselves and are not at peace with the human condition.

However, I view this diversity in the rpg gaming world as good. Not everyone thinks how I play is good and I don't think how everyone else plays is good. However, there are more playing because of this, and I view that as good. There is always a need for more fun in the world, be that silly or serious fun.

Anthony said...

I can see where you are coming from, Alexis.

Our group meets at our local game store on Mondays to play and we typically are the only ones in there and definitely the only ones playing any form of D&D. Just this last week, we switched to Tuesdays due to work schedules and it was the complete opposite.

There were four groups playing total. I didn't really observe the other three groups closely, but what I saw from a cursory examination was that, typically, only one player and the DM were participating at a time. This participation seemed to be focused around "move-equivalent actions" and cries of "epic level bullshit." Regardless, I can easily see how someone in a group like this could stop playing RPGs forever.

I'm not going to laud our own group or hold it on some pedestal, but at least everyone is participating more or less at once, within reason. If the other three groups are representative of the general structure of RPGs, I see where the danger lies of "falling out of the hobby."

Just my tangent.

Anonymous said...

Alexis, I can't go all the way with you on this one, friend, but I can say this much: I also wish this game wasn't seen as such a joke outside of its circle of interested parties, though I too understand why it sometimes is. I'm on board with any discussion examining this and wanting it to change. But... any movement driving THIS toward some sort of standardization strikes me as misguided. I frankly love that its groping about and finding itself still. To me, that's the churning of the soup. Within what standardized world could you and some of those mentioned and participating in the discussion above co-exist?

Adam Thornton said...

There once was a girl from Kelowna
Whose singular talent was blowin' ya
Though feared as a bitch
By each trailer hitch
She excelled at sucking a bone-ah.


JoetheLawyer said...

Going back to the soup analogy, I think what you're dealing with here is the evolution of soup. With the DM as the chef who adds ingredients at certain times, adjusts the temperature, stirs it up once in a while, randomly adds a little bit of this or a little bit of that based on pure inspiration and whimsy, and eventually the soup has evolved into something delicious and unduplicatable.

The thing is, being a chef based purely on ingredients and the skill of the chef, if you just start with tomato broth and water, and add nothing else, no matter how long you cook or stir, you're just going to get tomato soup. There is no real evolution. There is no real artistry. It's just plain old tomato soup.

I think to a large extent what's going on with the OSR is a lot of people read a lot of 500 page cookbooks which laid out in precise detail how to be a master chef, and they followed the instructions to the tee, but they feel they aren't that great a chef, and may have lost their sense of artistry. They are going back to first principles to try to find the roots of cooking, starting with tomato broth and water, enjoying the taste of it, and adding a little bit here and there in an effort to become a true chef, in the fullest artistic sense.

What you seem to be talking about Alexis is sometimes the soup tastes good to the individuals, for a period of time, but eventually the soup if eaten every week will get old and bland if the chef doesn't change the recipe. You seem to have some core beliefs about the best recipe to keep people eating soup.

What Zak seems to be saying is that as long as the folks are enjoying the soup together at the dinner table, that's all that matters, and anyhow all soups change over time due to natural group input---one diner may as for more carrots, one may ask for less salt. As long as the group gets what they are asking for, all is well at the dinner table.

JoetheLawyer said...

Alexis, you seem to be implying that there is one true ultimate evolution of the soup-making process, and that if chefs can be taught that process, we'll all be eating delicious soup of remarkable complexity and subtlety, appealing to the most discriminating pallets, whiuch will raise the diner's experience to some transcendental state of being. You seem to think that all chefs and diners of the old school soup blogosphere should help raise each other to soup nirvana through helping each other develop both the skills and the artistic abilities and sensibilities necesary for achieving such a state.

The problem is that we don't have a Buddah sitting under a tree waiting for a d20 to drop on his head to guide us.

Even if we did, how many people would get it? I think we're all born with a certain set of potential abilities, and no matter how hard we try, we're only going to go so far. Nature determines how far nurture is going to get you.

On top of all that, some people are just happy eating plain old tomato soup, and some are happy follwoing detailed complicated recipes in minute detail to create a complex, yet bland soup, lacking artistry and imagination. Whatever. Who cares.

Very few people pursue the art of soup making or soup eating with a sense of zeal or with the aim of developing their artistic abilities or skills in soup making. Most people just want to sit down and eat and have a good time with their family or friends. I think the good time is what sells the soup eating experience anyhow.

Greg said...

Alexis. I hate that we had our little spat a few months back now. Because I worry you might not take this seriously, but I do mean it this way.

You are 100% right on this issue.

Alas, I am tired and need to rest. But I will put up a post in the morning about this from work and detail out some plans that I actually have for doing what you are asking the community to do.

In the meantime, can you give your opinion on efforts like "Xtreme Dungeon Mastery" and other books/magazines produced by the major personalities in the industry. I have my own but I am curious about what you think.

Alexis said...

Forget it Greg. People disagree. I'm afraid I don't read any such books, so I wouldn't have an opinion on those.

Joe, that's two posts on my cooking metaphor, neither of which have anything to do with the reason WHY I used a cooking metaphor ... which was in reference to my writing scathing editorials, and NOT in reference to the point I was making about D&D. So I'm baffled as to what you think I was saying, and worried a little since I know you're a lawyer, and well-skilled at reading complicated, brain-numbing literature. For the record, NO, I'm not saying anything like what you have me saying with my cooking metaphor.

However ...

Soup-making IS taught, it IS rather strict in its rules about what does work and does not work as a soup, and many schools with centuries-long traditions feel it should remain that way. Only the uninitiated feel such restrictions don't matter, which explains why I can't get a decent bowl of soup anywhere, except my kitchen - and that only because I worked as a sous chef for a number of years, and was smacked on my knuckles with a spoon when the soup wasn't adequate.

And sorry, the only people who like plain old fashioned canned tomato soup are those who can't afford to buy better, or who have duped themselves into thinking it's 'just as good.'

JoetheLawyer said...

My choice analogy aside, I seem to have misunderstood your point Alexis. Like Zak, I'm interested in understanding what it is.

Chris Weller said...

What you are getting at is that you are a self-professed elitist as far as the game is concerned.

And just as you say that those who enjoy canned soup are either poor or foolish, you feel that people not playing the game in one of ways you consider valid are just like the canned soup-eaters.

This just seems so out of alignment with the Tao Te Ching. In fact, it's pretty Confucian. So I was wondering, without meaning to be a smart-ass about it, if you do hold any Taoist views on the game, or if it's a title you picked.

Chris Weller said...

And yes, I know that Confucius also used the term Tao, usually in referring to ways man should behave, but the more common association is with Taoism.

Alexis said...

Actually, the most common association is the use of the word 'way' as it is said in Chinese. Not every 'cross' holds a christ-figure.

I have never been quite clear on why calling an elitist an 'elitist' is somehow a perjorative. I'm not a politician. I'm not out to win a popular vote. Please understand - I am, in fact, an elitist. Unapologetically. And I am, in fact, suggesting that there's a better WAY to do things. I'm not making any claims in this post or the last one that this is my WAY. In fact, I have very clearly used words to suggest that any particular WAY that was chosen would be one that was reached through consensus, and not any other means.

Chris Weller said...

Yeah, every cross is not Christian, but given the popularity of the Tao of Pooh with college kids in the 80's, I had to ask.

Ben Brooks said...

I wish I could find the quote I was thinking of, something to the effect that the term"fun" is just used to shut down conversation. Kinda like "that's just your opinion man."

There can be more to gaming than just the ephemeral "fun", that is to say an experience that is more than just passing time just on the good side of the boredom threshold. "Fun" can transcend to "rewarding" with a bit of effort and a disciplined approach. And good old experimentation.

I know every time I bring up something like this it is like the reaction here. Many people saying "you can't tell me what to do!" and the rest arguing over a silly little point of semantics. I find people that are just so afraid or change or the mere suggestion of something they had a slightly bad experience with twenty years ago that they just shut down or go into defensive mode.

I think the essence of the article is:"Conditions won't improve until we do."

I don't know why this is a hard thing for most people to accept. Guess there's too many people that never left their rebellious teenage years.

Oh yeah: From where I sit, gaming already has a mono-culture. Edition and actor-vs-minmaxer conflicts don't matter as much as you'd think.

Anonymous said...

Moving past semantics and analogies for a moment... Alexis, without providing the answers could you outline briefly the problems needing solving? What specific skills/ techniques/ structure should such be part of this evolution to excellence?

Zzarchov said...

*No one is as excellent as me anyway.

I feel I may have expressed myself poorly if this was what was taken away from my point.

My point is very much so that only YOU are boned. I will relate with an example in my day to day life.

At work a position opened for a new system we are implemented. They wanted a senior technician for it, company guidelines say they need to have had 10 years experience with the system. The system was only built and released under 2 years ago.

So when I applied and they stated "but you don't have 10 years, you will run into situations you had not encountered before, and you will not have anyone to turn to for advice", I had to reply "I've been using the system for 8-10 hours a day for 20 months, its been around under 2 years, there is no one in existence I could legitimately consider a senior at this beyond the manufacturer's development team anyways". I have to be the one to post blog entries detailing what to do, for people starting with the system now to google and seek help from.

This doesn't mean that there shouldn't be a way to teach new GM's good habits, that there shouldn't be way to teach them how to make a logically consistent world etc,

It just means that as the hobby has only been around so long, and because you've been there since almost the begining, and you've been one of the few to continually hone your craft...

You have to be one of the teachers setting up instructions for others. There were no senior pilots the boys in the opening days of WWI could turn to for advice on how to dogfight either, having to look to their peers to see if anyone had figured out any neat new tricks. The only thing you have available to improve your game is to read the information of your juniors and sift through for the odd useful "big idea" you hadn't thought of yet.

Personally I take a lot away from your blog to improve my own game.

Zzarchov said...

As an aside about the elitist thing:

Whether or not you personally like Pizza, whether or not you think the "correct" version of Pizza is the best (I do not, its far inferior to me than the North American variety), there is a correct way to make pizza and there is serious study done to make "better pizza".

This is really "more efficient Pizza" even if not everyone would consider it "more effective Pizza".

For anything where the goal is enjoyment, you can't really work to have universal improvement on effectivness (somebody out there will like skunk anus on their pizza), but you can work to improve efficiency.

Alexis said...

Excellent points, Ben and Zzarchov. I'll be writing more about this today.

Greg said...

My supporting response is up, Alexis, along with my plan of action to contribute to improving the play that occurs.

Zak S said...

I feel like either I'm totally missing something or people are kinda talking past each other here.

I don't know if you'll read this before your next post goes up, Alexis, but I feel like a helpful thing would be:

Can you just make a list of every single DMing skill you think is required for baseline competence?

Detail would help, like "Ability to draw a map to scale with realistic wall thicknesses and light sources.

Ability to memorize ___, ____, and ___ about spells that ______"

Or whatever you think the basics are. I think it'd help ground everyone here in a common sense of scale.

Alexis said...


Big laugh. No, sorry, not putting any lesson plans together until I start advertising tuition costs.

But how this compentance measure might be organized by more than just me is part of the new post.

KenHR said...

I hate to be a pedant, but it's "competent." If you're going to call out someone on their spelling.... ;)

Alexis said...

I have room for improvement.