Saturday, December 6, 2008


I've started unsubscribing from blogs this week.
There were several blogs I started watching due to my interest in old school D&D...but after wees of discussion and observation I'm sad to say that all I've found is another batch of extremely opinionated gamers with a fixed view on how things are, and how things were as far as gaming in general and D&D specifically.

I'm not saying that these are bad people or that their opinion is wholly wrong. Their style of play was/is common. That style of play being largely dungeon crawls and gaming with a morally ambiguous L Sprague DeCamp or Robert E Howard kind of Grey Mouser/ Conan kind of mercenary play where PCs are all bastards out for loot.

I seem to be the only guy in the world who very rarely played like that. The groups I was in were more altruistic. Almost heroic. Less mercenary. Influenced more by Tolkien and Lewis than the above listed authors.

That's not true either. We've always had a mix: free to do as we wished. Only rarely in "dungeons" of any kind.

The point here is that the blogs of many "old school" gamers are just as opinionated and static as the Indie narrative guys, or GNS nazis. Sticks in the mud. Firmly believing that THEIR views are the most accurate portrayal of what their subject is...allowing no room for anything outside their view except as some sort of "aberration".

Any way you look at it, it's The One True Faith again.

My beef is that there are lots of ways the game D&D was played and is played today. I really take exception at people who are self-avowed "Gygaxians" because really, E Gary Gygax, while one of the fathers of the game and the industry as a whole...was not an honest man when it comes to the origins and motivations as well as inspirations of D&D and gaming. Not honest at all. While some people look at EGG as a paragon of D&D, I see him as a man who took the ideas of others, as well as some of his own, cobbled them together and sold them. His ambition drove the early days of D&D. His ability to use the ideas of others. That is all.

I have no hatred of EGG, or need to run him down, especially after his passing by elaborating on his past indulgences. Tolkien's influence was likely the single largest lie he perpetuated. Understandably so. With the lawyers baying at his door, he was wise to distance himself creatively.

Really...the point here isn't any of that at all.

The point is that some people who I previously respected and admired have become "just another opinionated asshole" in my eyes. And it's not even that the opinions differ from my own. It's the sweeping generalizations they make on all of this, stating "the way things were" and making them sound absolutely universal, and then delving in to the references they choose to use, from a man who was a well-known liar and cherry-picking evidence to back them up.

MY point is that it's not that simple, and while some people play "that way" others did not and that there IS NO "right" or "true way", "intended way" or "as Gary designed it to be". Why? Because lots of people played they way THEY wanted to, right from the very beginning, and all the "references" they use to prop up their "opinions" with are of dubious validity...and ultimately make no difference as there are just as many "references" to counter them.

For example Tracy Hickman is listed as one of, likely THE main person who altered the face to D&D forever, introducing STORY elements to what these grognards call "Old School" D&D. He's is reviled for this. They sugar-coat it, but in no uncertain terms, they place the change of D&D as a simple rules-light game to what it is today (and what it is today is seen universally as an abomination mind you).

My question is that of the Chicken and the Egg. Which came first? Did Tracy suddenly create an adventure that had plot elements and a bit of "story" to it? This never having existed before? Or was Tracy Hickman responding to a set of existing players who were already doing this, wanting something more than a dungeon crawl and "kill things and take their loot"?

To these (unsubscribed) bloggers, it's all on the head of Tracy Hickman, and he ruined their perfect white box game. Of course it is. To say otherwise would admit that people were already playing with story elements, and ultimately playing outside the nice neat little box of "kill stuff and take their loot"...which of course can never happen. Gary Gygax said that the way he wanted it. Seyla!

I'm disappointed.
I really wanted to believe that some of these folks were more "open" to a wide view of gaming and the way things were and are. I was wrong.

Ultimately all I found are more guys whose nostalgic memories are of a very limited style of play. Very vocal guys who are die hard believers in the "One True Path of Gygax".

Am I the one who's "off" in this?
Has D&D always been just "Kill monsters, take their loot" and being a mercenary bastard interested in gold and loot? Is that the true way? Is everything else just a figment of my imagination and my own personal experiences...and nobody else did that?

*The important note:
I don't want to downplay that pulpy Conan-like mercenary play is out of place or not a big part of what D&D has always been. Not at all.
It's just that it isn't, and has never been "the only way" or "The intended way".

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