Monday, June 17, 2013

Too Many Words

As of this year, things have been happening to the D&D blogosphere ... some sort of shakeup, apparently, which began as long-standing blogs began to drift away, one by one.  The most notable being Grognardia - who, as everyone knows, stopped posting mysteriously back in December ... and who has since appeared momentarily to give an explanation that his family requires his attention.  This would be understandable, except, well, he was given a bunch of money through - I think Kickstarter - just before disappearing.

Well, I'm not up on that, and if there's any new information I'm not the one to get it from.  My opinion of the guy's blog was that it was filled with the most sincerely boring corporate-style bullshit imaginable ... I continue to believe that he was somehow in the pay of several game companies simultaneously.  If it weren't for the fact that my daughter met Maliszewski once, I'd believe the name was a front for a gaming company.

I understand many people are mad at him.

That's just the tip of the iceberg.  Many people of late who keep blogrolls where the last post made drops the blog to the bottom of the list with time are seeing a lot of familiar names that haven't posted in months or more than a year.  Amendments here and there have been made.  One after another, sometimes with a goodbye message, sometimes not, blogs are ending.  The usual story is that people are moving onto something else.  That after a set period of time, there's less to say.  It may even be that after a decade or so, blogs in general have run their course.

It was always a bit goofy.  The culture we know isn't really a literate one.  Letter writing had long become a thing of the past long before it was replaced by email, something done by old people and furiously resisted by the young.  It was only with the explosion of chat in the 90s that there was suddenly a reason to write at all, for many people who thought the last essay they'd ever write came with high school graduation.  But take note that chat is a thing, too, that's run its course.  Oh, you can still find chat rooms, but they're filled with the most loathesome people imaginable, mostly on medication, prone to juvenile descriptions of kindergarten behavior, sensitive to any digression to the extreme, etc.  No meaningful person nowadays spends any significant time in a general chat room.  It has even gone out of vogue for Hollywood movies.

Perhaps its time to admit that 99% of the general public are not well suited for extended literature.  This whole 'wall of text' thing has a great many people seriously overwhelmed ... that is, any amount of words that would exceed those to be found in a detailed coffee ad.  The presence of words like 'malfeisance' or 'gentrification' fit like massive bricks in that wall, hazing the gaze of readers so as to defy comprehension.  There are just too damn many words in the language process to make reading them a practical use of one's remarkably brief time ... and all the worse when their plenitude demands some degree of puzzling out the inherent meaning.

People, as a whole, do not write well.  Many of those of the highest intelligence very often fail to grasp that writing is a separate skill from knowing or doing.  That seems counterintuitive (a larger brick).  Surely, if one knows a thing, or one can do a thing, the explanation in words ought to be no different than simply speaking to the reader.  But of course, if the reader can zone out when they listen to you describe the intricate details of your world in person, they're bound to do it in print.  After all, you're not there to see their eyes glaze over.

This blogging thing never made much sense.  I mean, I love it.  Good, bad, incomprehensible, waffling, irrational or discordant, I write like other people walk.  I don't say it's all good - I know for a fact that a lot of it plainly isn't.  But language is not hard ... not to write and not to read.  I don't pretend to understand how a multiplicity of words is a 'wall.'  To me, it's a feather bed ... something to fall into and lose myself, to sink so deep into the middle that the rest of the room disappears, until I feel on all sides hugged and gently smothered to bliss.

But this is me.

Others, I know, treat the expectation of reading a few paragraphs as a state of being something like jet lag, sucking out their existence and pulverizing them as if with two socks full of wet meat.  It's just not a thing that's wanted.  So why they would ever get into the reading of blogs, or the writing of them, was like a strange blip in the intellectual continuity of the universe.  Demonstrated as such by the revealing evidence that Maliszewski, a man with absolutely nothing to say that had not been said already, wrote easily the most popular roleplaying blog in the sphere.

Zak, over at the porn star corner, continues to do very well, and one cannot argue that it's the porn star logo any more.  He's dragged his keyboard through a spectacular number of posts on a wide variety of subjects, and so he's earned the right to be judged solely on the quality of his writing, and the quality of his ideas.

He's so accessible, so wonderfully, eagerly, mindbogglingly accessible.  You will not find a wall of text there, oh no, far from it.  Don't expect to find your mind expressly challenged, or any idea you have of yourself playing or running the game challenged either.  Read Zak's blog, and you will feel so much better about yourself; it will lift your comprehensions of yourself to the stars, for never will Zak's writing in any way make you reflect, for an instant, on your own mediocrity.  Compare yourself to Zak and you will always come out the winner.

Thus is the core of his appeal.

Of late, I've been reading someone who does not make me feel this way.  This is a fellow I stumbled upon through Cracked, who I quoted on the blog a couple of weeks ago, and whose back catalog I have since been reading with all the deliberate motivation of a flea market saleswoman trying to get one more raggedy anne doll made before Sunday.  This would be Winston Rowntree of Subnormality ... with the tagline of "Comix with too many words."  Here's a fellow who I have begun to respect far past my ability to express ... who regularly gets readers on Cracked and on his own site trashing him for daring to use more than a hundred words in any given example of his work.

Words, in the conception of many people, many of whom would certainly not be reading this blog, suck.  They suck hard.

If not listening to mind-blasting music, hurling oneself into situations of near-death through the use of planes, kayaks and belaying ropes, or flushing one's brain with highly complex drano alternatives leaves one to think, then reading positively forces one to do so ... and thinking is bad.  If you don't believe me, spend a lot of time doing it, talking about it, and then count the number of times people pause in the middle of a conversation to tell you that you are doing it too much.  That should be evidence enough for you.  Thinking, by and large, is a social disease.

But, I am not likely to stop.  I have this strange sense of being that where I'm beset on all sides, where I am intellectually over-reached and I should just goddamn stop, I just reach farther.  That seems to be my way.  And as things change, and people disappear, and interest wanes in a particular thing, then I move onto the next thing where interest is bound to wane again, for the same reasons as before.  For surely, if disinterest in blogs is in widespread evidence, then this is surely the time to get my online campaign started again.

I did want to bury that in the end of this post; I wanted to see if anyone was listening, or if all I have to left to write to are the bots.  I'm getting an enormous number of page views of late, but since they seem to be coming from sites like '', I have to contemplate the possibility that there are no real humans out there.

Oh, I'll send an email, see if anyone's interested ... but for the moment, let's take a rolecall.  The restarting of Tao's Campaign is on the table.  Any takers?


Dave said...

I'm interested. I'd like to see how some of your ideas (like the awarding of experience for damage given & received) work out in play before I unashamedly steal them.

Anonymous said...

I'm all in for the campaign and clearly still reading the blog, though I can't swear to you I'm an actual person due to my rudimentary understanding of metaphysics. ; )

Imon Fyre said...

I am here and reading, and the idea of participating in the online campaign is tempting. Put me down as someone interested. To play and learn would be a marvelous opportunity.


Alexis Smolensk said...

I'm sorry, fellas; just for the record, I did have four regular players when I suspended some months ago. Obviously I am primarily waiting to hear from them - and would be contacting them by email to make sure.

Imon, you were going to take part once before, but I thought you had said you couldn't due to scheduling issues.

Vlad Malkav said...

Hello gentle host,

Your walls of text are surely a little bit intimidating at times, but only when I read them at work between two rushes. Otherwise, they are just pure moments of pleasure.

Oh, the feeling of loosing oneself into words, letting the ideas and concepts flow, bringing light to darkness and feeding thoughts ...

So, no, you are not writing only for bots. Maybe not for human beings, depending on your definition, but absolutely for some very interested fellows.

Your blog is a goldmine of goodness, pile upon pile of interesting ideas, pieces of insight and the signs of a madness that'll consume myself someday. At least, I hope (the signs are good...).

So, please continue. Share your ideas, share your world, and to hell with the plebeians that cannot be educated or understand.

PS : sadly, I am not available for your online campaign. But I'm very, deeply interested in seeing it run its course.

Thanks !

Damn, I look like a fanboy, again ...

Jonathon said...

I'd certainly be another reader following along if you resumed.

Kyle said...

Yes, when I last expressed interest in playing, that was just before I had started a job in which I was not sitting at a computer all day. That situation has changed, and I am now back to being in front of a screen all day.

I would obviously not want to take away a seat from one of the main players, as I enjoy reading their exploits.

btw, this is Imon. I decided that hiding behind my pseudonym was getting a tad old.

Alexis Smolensk said...

It is only with all my effort that I do not gush at the foot of Rowntree.

Alexis Smolensk said...

There was never any doubt that I would continue. Probably next week, maybe Thur-Fri, depending on the players. I serve at their pleasure. Mondays and Tuesdays are going to be bad, but as the week progresses I should have time.

Dave said...

No problem. I understood you had a "regular" group and figured this might be first for their benefit.

Maximillian said...

Oh absolutely, Alexis. And this couldn't come at a better time too, as the project that's been dogging me for the last few months is finally off my back as of this AM!

Maximillian said...

And now as for the rest of the post, it has become such a problem at work, that I've begin prefixing my long emails with the following summary:
TL;DR:well, you probably wouldn't have understood it anyway.
Of course I have the tendency, a I'm sure you've noticed, to write more than is strictly necessary...

Dave, if you look back through the older posts, you'll find some examples of the combat in use.

I'm still looking forward to my first real battle.

Liliet said...

Restarting what campaign? I`m new around here, and I`d very much like to hear details. If it`s some kind of online play-by-post...

And if thinking is a social disease, count me as a source of infection bwahahahahah

Justin Kennedy said...

I jumped up and did an 'ol fashioned fist pump when I read you were extending an invitation to your online game. I really did.

Then I read the comments and was laid low.

It seems unlikely that you are worried that your online players are bots, so why did you use a rolecall for the few readers you can be sure are real?

P.s. I was quite ready to couch my comment in expansive politeness and deference, but then realized I wouldn't particularly care for you or your ideas if you were swayed by such methods and have therefore decided to be bold and direct, and revel in the brusqueness of your reply. It really is one of your best qualities.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Seriously, Justin, I owe you an apology. I had sincerely not realized that I had worded it far more open than I should have from the beginning. So I am, clearly, an asshole ... and you'd be right in calling me that.

IF I had more time, like I did once upon a time, I would be willing to try a second online campaign ... but it just wouldn't work. I do have an idea for something simpler that would be open to a lot more people, but I haven't quite worked out the details of that yet.

In the meantime, I have given a commitment to these four fine gentlemen, and I owe them a lot more than that.

Please let loose with honesty whenever possible. It is always preferred, even when it is abusive.

Alexis Smolensk said...


If you check out the links on the sidebar, you'll find one that reads Tao's Campaign, going back as far as 2009 (and notable failures from those times, too). There's also a link for even earlier campaign efforts in the Labels section, "Online Campaign," which goes back to 2008.

I've been doing this for awhile.

Justin Kennedy said...

So, it was not enough to dash my hopes of joining the game.

You then deny me a dose of your trademarked harshness for which I had girded myself! I feel like a warrior denied an honorable death...

More seriously, good luck with the campaign logistics. I will be following with interest when it continues.

Arduin said...

I'm always up for a seat in the campaign if it's open. My employment has gifted me the time I would need, at last.

As for the main topic of the post, I think it'll be interesting to see where the roleplay blogging scene sits in 5+ years. Find out who was wheat and who was chaff, see if all the old trends are still in force or if we've found new and exciting ways to prattle on about nothing.

Best of luck, looking forward to reading more.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Justin, I think I have a bomb to drop that will interest you, and Arduin and Kyle, and many others. Watch this space for a post in a few hours.

Aaron Aldridge said...


Present. I've been reading your blog consistently for a little over a month. Your back catalog has been a well-spring of nerve-striking poignance and foundational additives to my own PBEM campaign. Thanks for spending the time. We're out here, we're reading, and we're not responding from

You can check out my fledgling blog here:

I'm currently working on a piece about the ethics of PBEM. Look for it soon.

If you need an extra PC for your campaign, I'm your man.


Alexis Smolensk said...

I'll keep it in mind, Aaron.

My name is Alexis.

Jeremy Morgan said...

I have been following the blog for some time and plucked up enough courage to post a comment once (maybe twice?), and I can assure you that I still read most of your posts.

I must admit that your intellect is clearly above mine, so some of your posts cause my eyes to glaze over. Regardless, I soldier on reading most of your posts, as they help to balance my own thoughts and opinions about gaming.

LepcisMagna said...

I (almost) always read your posts in their entirety. I am about to start DM-ing my first game, and I have drawn upon your (and others') blogs for perspective and insight.
For the point at hand though, I do not believe blogging is not dying. It is simply finding a sustainable level. With the advent of Twitter and other such sites, it was inevitable that many blogs would stop in favor of shorter, more condensed media. But I believe there will always be a call for those blogs which are based more on "thoughtful" content (thoughtful in the sense that it cannot be adequately communicated in 140 characters or less). In an ideal world, this would mean that the quality of the remaining blogs would be higher - but ideals are hardly ever realized. Nevertheless: books - and people that read books - are still around; similarly: blogs - and people that read blogs - will always be around.

Lukas said...

I would very much like to continue my adventures. However it might be best if we communicate on the new scheduling of my job. I hope we can still work it out.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I'll find you online tomorrow or soon thereafter, Lukas.

Behold said...

As long as you finish the Civ Tech posts go for it.

F. Douglas Wall said...

I've generally found that "walls of text" are at least as much about the quality of the writing as the quantity. If the writer cannot write engagingly, I'm going to stop reading much earlier than if I were reading something well-written. I've never had that problem with your blog, Alexis.

Aaron Aldridge said...

Alexis, my apologies. Now, I've got it straight!

Alexis Smolensk said...

Thank you Aaron. Although I will admit I have no idea what PBEM is.

Lukas said...

Sounds like Play By Electronic Mail

Ahmet said...

I'm still in!