Archive for the 'rant' Category

23
Oct
09

au revoir and differences of opinion

“Freedom is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.”
— George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

A lot of discussion around the status of the RPG Bloggers Network has taken place following a disagreement on terms of admission (in flammenkrieg terms not huge but hurtful to those involved). Now the admins have chosen to pursue their own projects.

I wish them the best, they’ve done great things and left sizable boots to fill.   Network members respond in different ways, displaying the Kübler-Ross model behaviours to unexpected changes – denial, negotiation, anger, depression, grief and acceptance.

Yet in what people are already lampooning as the Great RPG Bloggers Network Schism of 2009, it’s obvious a couple of things remain true.

First, anger towards the people you’re trying to persuade isn’t as effective as respect.  Insulting your audience will encourage them to stop listening or go elsewhere.  Maybe that’s what you want?  Yet those behaviours limit options and damage your credibility on a personal and professional level.  Even if you do them well.

Second, to quote Dale Carnegie: “You don’t kick a dead dog.”  The network is attracting criticism from those worried the sky is falling, disappointed at how the admins were treated or those hoping to develop their own vision.  The bug has bitten and the road has called.  I plan on continuing for the only way to fail is to give up.

I want the RPG Bloggers Network to move forward regardless.  The network is bigger than one individual and if you’re part of any network, it’s wise to respect it’s participants.  Word gets around and those who live by mudslinging usually get dirty themselves for with good intentions, the destination remains the same.

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13
Sep
09

whose koolaid is it anyway?

The ROLPUNK manifesto (capitals by Berin Kinsman) is a timely warning.  Our blogosphere has become privy to camps warming themselves by flames of discussions on which edition or play style is best to the point it’s more discourses & diatribes than Dungeons & Dragons.  People are attituding out of their games to find play they like and the seriousness of such discussions waxes gibbous indeed.

Yet it isn’t unexpected and we shouldn’t be surprised. Gary Gygax (remember him?) is famed for his quote:

The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don’t need any rules.

The journey to find that flow of enjoyable and pervasive play spawned multiple games; multiple styles of play, multiple stances a player can take.  Yet in all this ephemera, something risks being lost.  Not unlike how ‘high-concept’ music from musicians like Emerson, Lake & Palmer occured just before punk sprang on the scene, it appears indie gamers may have the hearts and minds (if not the market share) of the tabletop RPG audience.  And Ron Edwards may have tapped into why.

I have met dozens, perhaps over a hundred, very experienced roleplayers with this profile: a limited repertoire of games behind him and extremely defensive and turtle-like play tactics. […H]e hunkers down and does nothing unless there’s a totally unambiguous lead to follow or a foe to fight. His universal responses include, “My guy doesn’t want to,” and, “I say nothing.”

I have not, in over 20 years of roleplaying, ever seen such a person have a good time roleplaying. I have seen a lot of groups founder due to the presence of one such participant. Yet they really want to play…

The Forge currently has more authority on Technorati than Wizards of the Coast and last I checked, there were a lot more D&D fans (and blogs) than for indie games!  So why aren’t they linking back?  Is it a choice or did the GSD website policy hit that low?  The Internet isn’t the be-all and end-all but it’s a significant indicator of mood and trend.

The Old School Renaissance has addressed simplicity of play by use of retro-clone games, stripped down mechanics and clarity of purpose has invigorated gamers.  Yet it may have contributed to the turtle play style – if you’re willing to game, expect regular attrition and cultivate detachment to your character.  This is agon (win/lose) style play, no save points, no taking back. 

So people look at how to enable rewarding play, to encourage fiero (triumph), kenosis (immersion) and paida (fun).  I’ve said before that 4E is a great entry-level game, not least for it’s advice on how to play and DM, yet it’s relentless publication cycle and conservative marketing approach where the Internet is involved do it no favours.  Some are already performing the last rites.

In our attempts to find flowing play via Gygax’s Big Secret, our attitude and communication steer the ship and how players engage with a game is key – the presence of MMORPGs make engaging, simplified, challenging play a priority.  The ROLPUNK manifesto urges people to get out there and play without prejudice; to pick up what works and run with it.  Now is the autumn of our discontent it seems.

25
Aug
09

spare me: ye olde magick shoppe?

An oft-repeated ‘requirement’ of certain fantasy games, the magic shop greets those with excess coin to burn with the cheery glow of pixellated candles and the promise of kewl powerz out of the necessity of explanation from computer RPGs. Lame and lamented, the presence of ‘ye olde magick shoppe’ makes it convenient to gain items of power essential to continued survival of your character. Convenient and cheesy.

Think carefully. Going down this route is making magic a commodity with all it implies. I have no problems with the cunning magician making an enchanted weapon for a hero. What I object to is his selling it onto the inscrutable shopkeeper. What kind of relationship exists between the two that making a magic item becomes commonplace enough to become a stock commodity; can you imagine the shopkeeper shouting about the fact his magic swords are selling like hotcakes?

And when did a magical sword become cheap or obsolete? Free Excalibur with every kingdom? “Ah but!” the objectors cry. There’s time-honoured traditions behind these things. Making the magic sword obsolete first appears in Beowulf (book only) when Beowulf shatters his sword on the hide of Grendel’s mother and it forces him to use the shiny magical sword in her hoard which then melts due to her blood. Spring that on a player sometime and see what happens. 🙂

So no room for Ollivander then? In the right setting, yes. Most heroic fantasy treats magic with a bit more… mystery. Shopping isn’t heroic (even for magic swords) yet. Being given weapons by a mysterious benefactor (including your father-in-law) or the Gods to perform deeds is. Maybe having to do the hard work first is much more appropriate don’t you think? Of course this may give your game a bit more of a mythic quality than McMagics.

Convenient and cheesy. Something you want in your game? Spare me!

26
Jul
09

tyranny, self-entitlement & getting over it all

I want all of you boys to be able to look me straight in the eye one more time and say: “ARE WE HAVING FUN OR WHAT?” — Top Dollar, The Crow.

Ever get into one of those dialogues where you don’t want to say anything but know that you’ll have to? There’s been recent themes in my blogosphere of late. First – a so-called tyranny people submit to when they experience a game or story – an interesting point-of-view. Tyranny implies an arbitrary or brutal exercise of power, abuse of authority, severity and oppression.

When you hear this phrase being applied to concepts like fun, the role of an author/game master or participant then you consider what boundaries of trust or consensual play have been violated. The concept of social contract (discussed here) means participants need to be honest with each other – an honesty oft set aside in the name of compromise or social fallicies.

Your time is important. It’s non-renewable. Getting an invitation to ‘Titanic‘ to discover you’ve arrived in ‘Mega-Shark vs. Giant Octopus‘ will annoy. Communication and effective feedback is essential. Keep with what you like and acknowledge when it doesn’t inspire. Speak up – you’re with friends (or people with a common hobby) so why suffer in silence?

That said, who wants to be an ass? Consider how you’d respond if your statements were made to you. Think about the words you’re using before going as a friend of mine puts it ‘all bardic vomit’. Give respect and you’ll get it back. It’s really that simple. Tactful suggestions on how it might go better can help steer people towards greatness.

Secondly is the opinion tabletop RPGs are doomed. This particular saw has been played since the 1990s by people who fear their hobby will fold in the face of large-scale collector games or computer-based gaming. The latest view is customers are so cheap that when they can find free alternatives, they do so, rather than spend money on merchandise that can be hard to find.

This pessimism is taking the industry further away from it’s audience. It implies a basic lack of respect about the product and it’s seller. So is complaining about how hard it is to make it in the hobby today, about which version is best, or how it doesn’t fit your vision of the ideal game even though they make blog content. You might have to move on. You might have to get smart.

Choose carefully – remember your time is important. And if you think your audience or peers are petty, self-entitled whiners you may be in the wrong business or peer group. I’d rather be with a bunch of discerning, creative enthusiasts. I know they’re out there. So do they – and I don’t have to insult or litigate against them to get them to listen. Does that count for something?

You might even want to look at how people who are making it in the environment are going on. In closing – a video of a presentation by Mike Masnick of Techdirt.com on a case study featuring Trent Reznor, Jonathan Coulton and others who have realised that it’s now about the patronage of the customer. It’s a bit lengthy – start from 02:30 if your time is short – but worth it.

P.S. By the way…
Have you?