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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Kotaku Almost Managed to Convince Me of What Little Influence Women Had on D&D

It's really quite pathetic. Because the fact is, I know that there were women who had very important parts to play, and significant influence, on the early D&D hobby.

But if you read Kotaku's supposed 'feminist' article about how important women were to early D&D, you'd come out feeling like women were inconsequential. The article is ironically entitled "D&D wouldn't be what it is today without these women", and yet when you look for the list of who these 'journalists' managed to get together, ironically you could very easily remove all of them from the history of D&D and the hobby would have been practically unchanged.

Instead of being able to provide an article that talks about the important early contributors to the hobby, what this article does is show us a group of second-tier writers, mostly admitted non-gamers, who did very peripheral products for D&D like maps, choose-your-own-adventure stories, and some art. Stuff which was in no way central to early design. Stuff that anyone else could have done.

I mean, I know, it's Kotaku: everyone who works for them actually hates gaming of all varieties, gamers, and thinks all geek hobbies are The Enemy that needs to be destroyed. But do they really have to be so incompetent they can't make their own title argument!?

It's probably because the person writing the article has no idea what they're doing. If they did, they could have mentioned Lee Gold, who published Alarums & Excursions and had enormous early influence on the hobby. Or Jennell Jaquays, which seems an odd omission, unless Kotaku now thinks that transgender women don't count?

On the other hand, it's more understandable that they would miss out on most of the other important and influential women in early D&D. Because these were not writers or game designers or publishers: they were gamers. Some of them were related to the early creators of the hobby (like Elise Gygax), and naturally that would discount them in the minds of the third-wave feminist author of the Kotaku piece; even though the Gygax women (not in spite of but by virtue of being related to Gary) probably had much more influence on the early hobby than anyone the 'reporter' mentioned in her piece. Others were women like Mary Dale, who had joined with her brother and had an influential early character in Gygax's original campaign.

But to Kotaku these don't count, because they're not the 'strong independent female designers' that they want for their narrative.  Never mind their real influence on the hobby, they just don't fit the story, even if no one actually does because the type of female influence Kotaku wants to 'discover' on early D&D (where there was some hugely influential female game designer as important as Gygax or Arneson) just never happened. So instead, they pick the nearest facsimiles they can get a hold of and try their best to make an untenable argument.  They start out with Jean Wells, who was certainly an important early figure, as their best possible argument, which just shows how weak their argument is. And from there they proceed downward to Margaret Weis, who helped make the shittiest D&D setting in history, long after the influential early period, and was basically a novelist rather than a game designer. Her contribution to the hobby was a series of modules that enshrined railroading and metaplot, causing enormous harm to the game and arguably being one of two markers of the end of the original Old-School period (the other later marker would be the printing of 2e itself, under the supervision of another destructive woman, Lorraine Williams; I'm kind of shocked that Kotaku didn't try to rebrand that hobby-destroying she-harpy into a feminist D&D heroine!).

Anyways, way to shoot yourself in the foot, Kotaku. It's a lucky thing you got it at least partially wrong, because if you were right, it would have meant that women were of absolutely no meaningful significance in the creation of D&D.

RPGPundit

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Monday, 26 June 2017

Classic Rant: On the Third Generation of OSR Products


There's been some talk on the OSR blogosphere lately about the question of just what is really valuable in the OSR, setting or rules, and about what the OSR is producing or may produce (or should be producing) in the future. That is to say, where shall the innovation be?

Tenkar (of Tenkar's Tavern) came out saying that he thinks the future of the game should be more products like Spears of the Dawn or Arrows of Indra, complete games where the innovation is the setting and "less reworks of greyhawk or the forgotten realms". While Rob Conley (who I'll note provided the excellent maps for Arrows of Indra) admitted that these are not really his cup of tea, and that his " preference is for bog standard fantasy world but with depth" (giving Harnworld or Ars Magica as examples).

The Greyhawk Grognard has pointed out that he thinks there were two phases in the OSR, the first being retro-clones and the second going off in "new directions". 

All of them made mention of this question of "where is the OSR's Tekumel?", and the impetus for this seems to have been the new White Star game.

I'd argue that in fact there are now three phases in the OSR.

The first was the retro-clones. This was to me by far the least interesting part of the OSR, though some argued a necessary part, and they are pretty much finished now (since we've cloned just about everything that could be cloned and a few things that maybe shouldn't have been, to the point that we're left picking through Dave Arneson's discarded grocery bills in search of mythical clues to some kind of lost UR-D&D).

The second phase is still going on, which is the largely rules-fronted OSR games: those games that are not retroclones but whose innovation and creativity is largely focused on rule-modifications of the standard D&D concept. These are games like ACKS, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or Fantastic Heroes & Witchery.
These could still go strong for a good long while, because there's way more room for creative maneuvering than with the retro-clones or even the almost-clones like Adventures Dark and Deep, as good as that is.

But now what we're just starting to see is Phase III: which is the products that are all about focusing on an old-school setting that obliges a new way of playing D&D; these will have rules that are different from the standard but what makes them shine is not the rules-difference but the setting-difference. I'm proud to say that Arrows of Indra is one of them (as is the aforementioned Spears of the Dawn), but I also think these are in some ways just the baby-steps (or easy pickings) of what will eventually become a huge new source of creative wealth for the OSR.

These types of OSR-games are exactly the kind I'm interested in making. Aside from AoI, within a month or two we'll see the release of Dark Albion: The Rose War. What will make it interesting and different from the two examples above is that AoI and Spears both got their inspiration from looking at D&D from the point of view of a cultural difference in setting; whereas Dark Albion is going to be, to slightly alter Conley's demands, "European Fantasy with depth". It will be D&D done for deep-historical gritty European fantasy, which will be closer in some ways to stuff like Ars Magica, Harn, or Pendragon than anything we've seen for the OSR thus far. Indeed, while it will be instantly familiar (and particularly appealing, I think, to any Game of Thrones fan) its 280-or-so pages of historical-fantasy detail will unlike any D&D setting I've ever seen.

The days where people could get away with the "10' x 10' room with 2 giant rats and exactly 2000cp" rut that the JMal-branch of the OSR nearly got stuck in is over. What's coming up now will defy anyone to think that there's a lack of creativity in the OSR, as if the second-phase products hadn't made that claim provably absurd already.

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Ashton Old Church Rhodesian + C&D's Crowley's Best

(originally posted May 22, 2015)

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The End of Dark Albion


It finally ended, yesterday.  The original Dark Albion campaign, the one that inspired the Dark Albion setting book, and was ultimately responsible for Cults of Chaos too, and the upcoming Lion & Dragon RPG, and a bunch of material that will be coming out in my "RPGPundit Presents" series, it's all over.




The PCs, all but two, died in the tower of Morgan Le Fay.


It had been a spectacular campaign, six years in the making.
Obviously, it'll live on, through all the other games of Dark Albion people have played, are playing and will play.  Myself included; because I'm pretty sure I'll be running Albion again real soon.

As for now, a little break, then maybe some short games, and after that another long campaign. Who knows what it'll produce?

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Gawith's Commonwealth

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Still Working on My Latest Project: "The Child Eaters"

The design part of my new project is coming along. It's going to be a series of short products of all different varieties, and right now I'm working with my (as yet still Mystery) publisher in terms of how it's going to look.  I love the idea we currently have for the cover.


Meanwhile, I keep working on product.  My latest?  "The Child Eaters".  It is a kind of adventure scenario, detailing a pretty classic but very spooky type of cult coming out of witchcraft stories of the medieval world.

Keep in touch for more information about these as the project continues!


RPGPundit

Currently smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia

Friday, 23 June 2017

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Why the Traditional GM/Player Roles Matter

In a recent RPGsite thread, the age-old debate was once again reignited about the question of why it would be a bad thing to take away certain powers from the GM (in this case, the GM's authority to roll dice).  Some of the typical arguments were presented; and here's my response to them.


a. You maintain the traditional role of the GM as "it's all about meeee!"

No, I maintain his traditional role as "The GM is the final authority of the RPG game; NOT the loudest most annoying player, NOT the "rules-as-written-and-interpreted-by-the-best-rules-lawyer, NOT the Asshole Game Designer who thinks his own personal genius makes him a better judge of what should happen at a gaming table 3000 miles away from him than the guy actually running the table; NOT a movement that thinks GMs are a Product of Rape-Culture Imperialist White Patriarchy".


b. You want 'your' monsters to be as important as the player characters!

The monsters ARE as important as the characters. If you understood how RPGs worked, you'd know that. Shit, the weather is as important as the player characters. Whether or not there's gunpowder available in the market is as important as the player characters.
The player characters are just the Players' vehicles to interact in a VIRTUAL WORLD. Since the entire fun of the game depends on the realistic emulation of that Virtual World in order to achieve IMMERSION, all of those things are equally important for Fun to be achieved.

If a player feels like world is flat because he only ever interacts with the world through rolling his own stats, as if nothing in the world but his own PCs' stats were real or mattered, then the World does not become True, he can't achieve Immersion, and THE GAME FAILS.


c. We are ultimately in service to the players!

No. The GM and the Players are ALL there to have fun. The GM isn't a fucking slave there, to be punished for some imagined ancestral sin by having to be a toadie to whatever a group of fetishists want as fantasy wish-fulfillment. There's a reason why Forge games are all for one-shots.

The GM has a DUTY to make sure his players will have the most fun possible for the longest time possible. Why does he have that Duty? Because HE IS THE ULTIMATE POWER, and with great power comes great duty. If he didn't have that power, he would not have any such duty and could be whatever kind of piece of shit he wanted. And for that matter, if he did not have that power he wouldn't even have the capacity to make sure players have the most fun for the longest time possible, because to make sure that happens he must be able to have the power to say NO to their capricious little spoiled whims of the moment. If he can't say No to them getting whatever the fuck they feel like just now, the game ends quickly as one or two people at the table (again, the loudest, most annoying players) get a session that went exactly how THEY wanted it to, and everyone else feels cheated.


d. Yeah, well maybe there's better ways out there than your one-true-way!

There aren't. That's why none of the bullshit garbage ideas the bullshit garbage Swine have come up with over the years to try to hijack games has produced anything other than misery, and why Old School, my "one true way", and myself personally are all more popular now than ever.
Must suck to be you some mornings...


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Classic Rant: RPGPundit's Advice for RPG-Designers Being Targeted by the Ctrl-Left

I'm not going to say who it was, for obvious reasons, but someone recently wrote to me privately, about how there were some of the Usual Suspects (in this case on RPGnet, but it could really have been anywhere) attacking his rpg-writing. This particular designer had never had this happen to him before now, and he was quite concerned and didn't know how to deal with it. They were attacking his present work, looking at old posts to find things he might have said years ago to use against him, whipping up the mob into a frenzy, etc.; all the usual tactics. So, I thought I'd share here what I wrote to him, since other people might also benefit from it someday. 
Names have been withheld, but the rest of this posted for general benefit. You never know when YOU might be the next one targeted, because increasingly, there's no real criteria as to who get's chosen as the Pseudo-activists' next victim.


Without further ado:


Ok, first: don't apologize for anything, don't try to hide anything. Don't delete things you said in the past. If you honestly don't believe in it any more, say so, but don't hide it. If you do believe in it, be shameless about it. They're going to go for the throat anyways, NOTHING will make them stop, so don't think you can try to make some kind of compromise with them. If you show any weakness, they just get more rabid.

Second, why are you engaging them on their own territory where they have all the advantage? They get to say things you don't, they can paint you as the unreasonable one, and if you get mad they'll paint you as 'erratic', and then when they think its the right moment, they'll ban you.
You're already banned there, it just hasn't finished happening yet.

Find better places to promote your product. The rpgnet ruling clique has decided your game is evil, that's it. You're dead there. You should go promote it where you are likely to actually find an audience, in other forums (like theRPGsite), and on G+ or Facebook.

The best way to beat them is to be blatant about how they mean nothing to you, and to succeed in spite of them. Whenever you do that, it weakens them. When you take them seriously, or try to reason with them, it only makes them stronger.

One more thing: in my experience, in the long run, there's no such thing as 'bad press'. Some of it can limit your options in the future, but usually only if you're very clearly a controversy-hound (along the lines of James Desborough). If you are professional about it, getting slammed by a gang of assholes just makes people pay attention to you. You'll be crying all the way to the bank, if you work this right.




RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Poker + Gawith's Virginia Flake

(Originally posted May 28, 2016)