Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Door Slammed In Your Face

Yesterday, amid a post that was made by James, was the following:

"In 4E, no level 1 creature could kill any level 1 PC in one hit (there may be a rare exception or two, but it would be exceedingly rare)."

From the whole comment, James seems to suggest that I (or someone, it's not clear) am making assumptions about 4e that are, apparently, wrong.  Let me start by reassuring any of my readers that anything I might ever write about 4e will always be what it appears to be, never what it is.  That is because, from anything I've seen or heard, since first pirating the books (then deleting them) three days after 4e was launched, I have considered the system a total pile of shit.

James comment above does not encourage me to think otherwise.

This is not a post about 4e.  Nor is this a post about whether or not people can or should or would be killed in a rational system.  We have all had that conversation too many effing times and I'm not interested in it.  Please don't go there in the comments.  Surely there's a flame war burning somewhere if you need to unburden yourself on the matter.

This post is about the need for people like James to explain something about the system they play to someone who plainly does not play that system.  Specifically, the cognizant dissonance involved. Obviously, if I cared enough about 4e to have any part of the rules matter to me, I would have already read the rules.  If I had read the rules, I wouldn't need James to tell me what the rules contained.  And finally, if I don't know by now what the rules contain, having had five years to read them, I don't care.

The argument against this is a biological function of the brain, one that goes something like, "If 'blank' only knew that the 4e rules contained this unbelievably amazing point, they would change their minds totally about 4e and immediately embrace the concept."

In English, we have a word for this sort of thinking:  proselytization.  It's the jerky, annoying, immensely rude thing that certain religions have chosen to embrace because it is a means of preying upon weak people in order to increase a religion's capitalization.  If, as a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, I knock on enough doors, sooner or later I'm going to come across a very sad person who is in a very bad place in their lives, someone desperate enough for any sort of company that I will be able to use the pre-processed words of my spiel to induce that suffering, vulnerable person to give me money.  Thus, I will achieve my quota for the day.  Thus the coffers of the religion will increase, on the backs of people who don't have hope.

It is for this reason that only the crappiest of religions (and certain other low-brow charities) go door-to-door.  If, for example, I am collecting for liver cancer, sooner or later I'll find someone who's recently had a relative suffering from or recently passed away from complications of the liver.  Bang, money in my pocket.

This is not, however, why proselytization started, nor why James felt the need to educate me about 4e.  I only wish to express why many people find it so abusive.  Most people who have given money away in a moment of weakness recognize afterwards why they did it, and are understandably bitter about it.  We are entirely right in giving away money or our time or any other part of ourselves when we are in a good headspace - but that headspace is poisoned by people who feel the need to interject their agenda into our misery.

Proselytization starts because we get SO excited about something we really believe in, we have to tell everyone about it.  "This changed me!" we think; "It will change you too!"  So we set out to educate others about our particular discovery, whether or not we think they want to hear it.

I do it all the time.  I preach on this blog.  I tell you, the reader, about the brilliance of managing your world's economy, about generating content to fill hexes, about a new way to manage experience, about the possible influence of history and other subjects on your game and so on . . . because these things are interesting to me and changed my game.  I want them to change your game.  I fully understand the proselytization game.  I'm excited.  I want you to be excited also.

The difference between me and James is not one of purpose, but of effectiveness.  For me, James has a really shitty message.  It isn't even James' message.  It's a message James is repeating from elsewhere, that isn't new, that was invented for a game system that even the company has chosen to turn its back on.  It's a message that sucks for most of us already - except that it doesn't yet suck for James.  He's still on it.  And he thinks - wrongly - that there's enough validity in the message to still tell it to me, despite the content of this blog.

Why?  Because James has never read the blog.  Or, possibly, he has decided to ignore the content of the blog.  James' co-opted message, in James' mind, is just that good.

Well, I'm smacking James around pretty hard, so let me pull back.  Assuming, that is, he's still reading this.

True proselytization is hard.  It takes resolve and commitment and a ton of hard work.  If I want to convince the player of anything about role-playing, I'm going to have to write tens of thousands of words to compensate for the fact that they're not in my world, they can't see me run, they haven't tried the things I suggest or they just plain don't believe any of it is practical.  The only way I have of getting over that wall of resistance is to write and write and write.  I'd love to have you all around, to play the game with you for a month or two, to help you work out the kinks of your disbelief and demonstrate why my policies work, but sadly, I don't have until the end of eternity.  This blog is what I have.  So I write and write and write.  And, mostly, fail.  But that's how proselytization goes.

Understand.  One sentence is not going to manage the job.  Especially not if that sentence promotes a gaming system as recognizeably bad as 4e.  While I recognize that there are tens of thousands of people who play 4e, I also recognize that there are tens of thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses and hundreds of thousands of Mormons.  I don't recognize the validity of their fucking arguments, either, and believe me they are WAY more resolved in spreading the word than is James or the WOTC (when they cared about 4e).

Thus, if you feel that you must preach, then at least take the time to really do it.  Don't write a spackled sentence on my blog, hoping to fill an imagined hole in my game, and call it done.  Don't preach to ME.  Get on your damned blog and write 109,000 words about the importance of this specific rule in 4e and how it will change the world.

Otherwise, here, writing a sentence in my comments, you're just making noise.  Like a bleating little JW turning up at the door on a Saturday morning before I've had my coffee.


  1. Yes, I read the entire thing.

    You asked a question, I attempted to answer.

  2. My question was, "Do later editions of D&D make smaller parties more viable."

    In no way, James, does this one statement in any way address the viability of smaller parties. In fact, an argument could be made that it proves later editions make smaller parties unviable - as the point is to produce a game with tension, the player character that cannot easily be killed is a wet blanket thrown upon every kind of tension imaginable - like knowing the hero is going to survive the movie, and thus not giving a crap what the hero does or what happens.

    You did not bother to address that, nor even the point you were probably making, that a lesser chance of death promotes heroism - which, again, STILL isn't an argument for viability, only an argument for survival.

    You weren't specific either way. You were proselytizing. Now, I appreciate why. You love your system - which is great. And you want others to understand your system - which is also great. But my post indicates I have a pretty good idea of the survivability of later game editions, so you're not really telling me anything that I don't already know.

    You said you read "the entire thing." Did you mean the entire post, or the entire blog? Because I was referring to your apparent ignorance of the entire blog. Before you rush to tell me things I don't know, perhaps you should educate yourself about what I know.

    Assuming, of course, that you care. Those who proselytize, as you know from your own experience with would-be sellers of religion, don't really. Do they.

  3. I didn't claim to answer the question well. Clearly I failed in that regard. I was trying to say that newer editions are less deadly than older editions, and thus smaller parties are more viable.

    I wrote sloppily and hastily, and got called out on it. I deserve that.

    I wish you would stop assuming my motives, however. I was not proselytizing; I have no love for any system and I have no desire to convert anyone to play a particular system.

    I read the entire post. No, I have not read your entire blog. I have read the last year of material, but not much from before unless it was linked to.

  4. And no, proselytizers don't particularly care about what others have to say; nothing could ever be as important as what they have to say.

  5. "I wish you would stop assuming my motives, however."

    An interesting request. It would be very, very easy to write an entire post about it.

    Look about you, James, at the others who share your space, your part of the world, and ask yourself which of them you do not make assumptions about based upon your experience with them and upon their actions. Examine your own motivations, examine the message you wished to send to my blog - then remember that I fully admitted to being a proselytizer myself.

    There's nothing wrong with the practice. Only - and you should remember this - when you knock on a door, any door, you only have so long to get your message across before the door is slammed in your face. You should choose your words carefully, and when you choose the wrong words, don't ask for the listener to address their assumptions.

    The blog is my house. You knocked. It was up to you to prove your value, not me. I've been proving my value through almost 1,500 posts you haven't read.

    I'm quite sure you would like it if people in their houses made assumptions about you that suited your self-perception, but that is wishful thinking. Step back, shake it off, then strive to make a different impression. Don't ask for an impression to be made simply because you want that.

    Hey, we're talking, right? That's the best way forward.

  6. Fair enough.

    I am reacting poorly to me feeling like my intentions are being misconstrued, but intent is meaningless. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" and its ilk, if you will.


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