Friday, September 21, 2012

If There Was Ever A Stupid Idea...

It is nice to have laurels to rest upon.

I launched the idea of running an online campaign on a blog on February 18, 2009, just nine months after starting this blog in the first place, with the post, Stupid Ideas of Mine.  I did start such a campaign, at first on this blog, and then on a blog of its own - which has been more practical.  The first campaign limped along, and was joined by a second, then a third campaign ... these last two not having the necessary legs.  So it goes.

After the first campaign sputtered out, there was a long period in which I did not run online.  However, back in September 2011, I decided I would pick it up again.  Throughout that month, I gathered four new players, and together we started the new campaign on September 23.  It has been ongoing continuously for one year (less two days).

During that time we have had massive fights, played with complex magic, explored ruined ships, had an outdoor campaign, had an underground campaign, fought in a war and had brief dalliances with potential love.  It has been everything an ordinary campaign might be ... and despite the method, I think I've proved now that I can do EVERY kind of running with just text alone.  The players have proved that it is worth it to them to struggle and try to succeed, and get along as best they can.

It is strange to me that what makes credibility online with the community is not how well you can play, but how NICE you are.  That there is the fundamental flaw in the community itself - and for those long time players who can look back at the years between the 70s and now, it has ALWAYS been the flaw.  If you've been part of groups founded on campuses, inside gaming stores or at community centres, the one measure of the DM that simply does not rate mention is ability to play.  The jackass with the key to the gaming room is often a major representative ... the DM whose mother organizes the convention is another.  And lest we forget the player who's day job provides enough money to buy all the figures, all the table time and especially the booth where in convention after convention he or she sits and signs autographs.

Can he or she play?  Who the fuck knows.  Does it matter?  Clearly not.  You don't need to know jack shit about playing in order to design packaged content for gaming companies ... that much is obvious.  What you need is a connection, a completely bland personality and the ability to be NICE for year after year as you spout absolutely the same drivel over, and over, and over again.  You need to be able to write pandering, useless articles for the dragon magazine online with a marvelous plastic smile plastered Romney-like over your features.  You need to beam widely at paying audiences while you take money from the conventioneers because 90 years ago you scrawled something on graph-paper while you and the Great G burped Dr. Pepper together.  It is how well you genuflect, how miraculously devoid of substance are the panegyrics you write, how fantabulously sexy and immaterial are your Los Angeles connections, and how long you can keep this going without your nightly self-esteem-induced vomiting overwhelming you.  So long as you are likeable, for the Love Of The Game, no one will ask you whether you can play the fucking thing or not.

There was a stupid idea at the core of my question three years ago, but it wasn't whether or not it was possible, or fun, to run an online campaign with a blog.  It has been, it will continue to be, I see us going forward and I know that after a year the players are beginning to TRUST that the effort they make today will have a chance to materialize.  No, the stupid idea I had three and a half years ago was that it would buy me some sort of credibility; that readers might see that, despite my volatile and oh so acerbic bitterness, there was REAL substance behind the vitriol.  I deluded myself in thinking that with solid evidence that I could construct a campaign, design a complex world that had continuity, advance the characters through that world in a pure sandbox style, and carry it on for a long time, would wake people the fuck up and realize that I'm only acerbic when I am opposing the mind set that makes that value set impossible.

People would rather read nice people.

Even if the nice people are deadly dull.

Laws, chillins, write what you want, but there's no place in the world for bloggers who use words like 'bastard' ... no, chillins, no!  That's why we burned that miserable, self-absorbed film Ratatouille that depicted a child born out of wedlock, yes'm, yes'm!  Only use GOOD words, chillins ... else you're soul will never walk with Jesus!

Not that I think, for one second, that D&D is the only past-time to which this kind of ignorance applies.


Arduin said...

I can't think of a way to agree without sounding like a goddamn parrot.

Yes. Goddamn it yes, there are ways to play this game that are shitty. Yes, there are ways that are better. Yes, it is stupid that people use "fun" as the sole barometer for quality, and that DTER tables are the best we're gonna get from 99% of the companies that produce this stuff.


Everyone is going to orgasm in their goddamn pants at DD5, and nobody is gonna ask if this in any way actually improves the game in any way. "Oh, but it's so much cooler now that my fighter can perform x actions per turn" or whatever the fuck, like how much fictional ass you can destroy is good measure of a game about taking on the role of another person.


The blogs will dance from fad to fad, reaching just close enough to a quality idea that you keep looking, but never actually attaining a level that can be said to improve the game as a whole.


Whatever. It's why we're here. It's why we read this. It's why I'm here, and read this. I find content. Not just "oh, isn't that a nice table I'll look at and never, ever use", but fucking CONTENT, that makes me go "Well, awesome, that has completely changed the way I look at this game, and is crunchy in mechanics but childishly simple in execution."




I don't want nice. I don't need it. I want content. I want substance. I want something that makes me mad, or sad, or any other emotion. I don't want melodrama, or that sick feeling I get whenever I know I've just handwaved the shit out of something in game.

I like watching my players get mad, and sad, and making them feel things. I like seeing the look on the fighter's face when he knows he'll bleed out long before he reaches the village, but trudges on anyway. The thrill of victory mixed with shame when our thief can escape, but not her companions. The triumph of returning home alive with fists full of silver and scars.

I like kicking their characters over and over, because it makes moments they don't forget. They bleed, and cry, and it makes them more determined for the next game. Nobody has ever thanked me for pulling punches, but you're damn right they've thanked me for dishing them out.

Niceness is not, and will never be, a measure of quality.


Anonymous said...

I think you get all the grudging respect one could hope for. The current blog roll of 256 (love that its a number related to 8-bit systems, god I'm a fucking geek) is respectable given the vitriol and bitterness. How many are following along without "following" I wonder? Have stopped following in name but can't help to peek in from time to time or kick off their own latest post still ruminating and being influenced by something you did two years ago? Shit man, just being a target for YDIS and having the best they can come up with what you saw makes me envious. As for Jim Mal, the jog has gotta be up, there no? No that he has paying backers, a late project and nothing to show for it but stale farts of reviews of 30 year old fanzines, surely the community won't keep going bacl to THAT well. Meh, if they do I suppose.

In closing, Argentina, we will not cry for you! Keep the hits and the nasty vitriol coming.

Alexis said...

Hahahaha ...

"I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges or scrub the floor."

-- D.H. Lawrence

Are Braaten said...

Who gives a shit about tone? It's not how you're writing/saying it thats important, but what you are saying. And what you are saying is generally interesting and well put. Sure, I don't always agree with all you're writing, but so what? I still find it interesting and occationally illuminating. It's why I follow this blog and read the posts as I see them pop up in Google Reader.

Anonymous said...

Pretty much I find only three bloggers worth reading: you, Roger the GS, and Zak S. I know you have contempt for at least one of those people and possibly all three ... yet you are the only ones who make me genuinely think about Art.

Which is what DnD is about, really. What makes it different from Axis&Allies, or poker, or DDO, or WoW. Participatory art.

People who find you acerbic are missing the point.

Anonymous said...

I find him acerbic and I get the point entirely. ;)

Scarbrow said...

I find Alexis acerbic, hard and vitriolic, not to mention unyielding, vociferous and overall not-nice.

And I heartily encourage him to keep being himself. His posts wouldn't be half as good any other way. And they're goddamn good.

Dan Vincze said...

I've read this blog for some time without commenting. Sadly it seeems my first comment will be the fawning sycophantism below:
I find Alexis acerbic, arrogant, and at times downright rude, and I am not bothered in the slightest.