Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Weekly Rant

Just picking up where I left off...

Damn, I drink too much. It's a fact (I booze more than I need to, certainly more than I should), but so far it hasn't destroyed my life yet as it has with so many of my family members. I'm a stubborn son-of-a-bitch, I suppose, and I have the gift of being able to observe myself with an objective perspective, "bucking up" as necessary to keep my life on track. Still...an IPA with "lunch," a strong stout at my favorite game shop, and now I'm close to finishing off a bottle of white that I opened while cooking the kids dinner (fresh trout, pan fried, with a side of steamed green beans, the latter tossed in olive oil and salt...organic raspberries for dessert). The kids are in bed so I can "shnocker" myself as I blog.

But I realize it's not good.

I'm angry tonight, and it has nothing to do with my lot in life. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm blessed. My back even feels fine this week. Wife's out of town and kids are a little melancholy, but she'll be back in nine days...and then there's our plans to travel to Oaxaca over Spring break which, if memory serves, may have actually been MY idea (remarkable, because I'm the homebody who would rather stay in Seattle, waiting out the rainy winter). Sure I should be saving for my kids' college tuition, but why not enrich their life experience while Mexico is still affordable and we have some extra cash? My parents never paid a dime for my college tuition, and I still managed to muddle through Jesuit university and pay off the loans.

[that's one of the secrets of life, youngsters...it's actually fairly long and those giant bills DO eventually get paid, even though it might take a decade or two]

No, I'm not angry about my life (at least, I don't think I am; if it's a subconscious thing then shame on me). No, I'm angry about Dungeons & Dragons. Probably for stupid reasons (if being "angry about Dungeons & Dragons" wasn't stupid enough).

The kids and I drove out to the game shop tonight...not exactly local (it's in Edmonds), but certainly my favorite. D had received a Pokemon set for Christmas that he'd been wanting to exchange, and I was looking for a copy of the One Ring RPG, or the Adventures in Middle Earth game setting for 5E, both of which had been suggested to me by a Mr. T in the comments of my last post. I found the latter (both the "player guide" and the "loremaster handbook") and was fairly unimpressed...though they're nice books, they're fairly limited in scope, all things considered (I've spent a lot of the last couple days re-reading The Silmarillion, which I find simultaneously inspiring and disheartening).

Still, I was able to pick up a copy of the 4th Edition of Shadowrun (used) for ten bucks...not bad considering its $40+ hardcover price tag...which might just be the kick in the head I need to get back to Cry Dark Future (every time I see a new iteration of the game...and I realize it's on version five...I see how useful my game would be). So...definitely not a waste of time (in my opinion), making the drive to Edmonds.

Then...

As we were leaving...

Found some kids setting up for a game of 5E D&D.

"Kids," I say, but I did ask the DM her age and she claimed 24, and they all looked to be in the same ballpark. Three or four young women (I was wrestling coats onto small children at the time so my headcount might not have been accurate), ready to explore and adventure (I presume) in some...

Okay. Enough with the flowery prose.

Last week I was down at a different shop, solo, talking with an acquaintance who happens to have an "insider's view" of the workings of the industry. Let's call him "Bill" for the sake of protecting the innocent (just in case). The thing about Seattle is there are a LOT of industry (RPG industry) folks residing out here by dint of WotC's vicinity. Lots of Big Industry Names live out in this neck o the woods, even those NOT associated with WotC...and there's plenty of dirt to dig up, if one's into that kind of thing. Anyway...

I was talking to "Bill" about some o these idea I've been having lately: like how RPGs' greatest strength may be in what they offer "experientially" and how maybe the old fable of "good GMs making for good games" isn't so terribly far-fetched and that perhaps the thing we should be doing (and the thing we're failing at the most) is in teaching folks how to BE good GMs, and how the biggest names in the industry seem far less concerned with teaching new folks how to run games and far more concerned with making them dependent on sucking the corporate tit for adventure ideas.

And Bill did nothing to dispel my fears. There has been a (small to medium) resurgence in the game; more people are playing now than had been for...well, recently anyway (like, since the 80s). But the industry's response to a growing NEW fan base has been to harness technology, making "apps" that teach folks how to use the game. Because my question for Bill was: what the hell is the plan here when it comes to teaching new folks how to run games? You know what I mean: how do the publishers intend to create competent Dungeon Masters (or whatever the term is used with regard to Pathfinder, etc.). And their basic plan is: not to do so. The opposite, in fact.

Back to the kids at the game shop. After (politely, I think) interrupting them, I asked if they'd be willing to answer a few questions I had. They were (perhaps a little flustered, surprised) amiable enough. I asked how they'd learned to play D&D; they gestured to one of their group and said it was due to "her boyfriend." I asked who was acting as their DM. This particular evening it would be the same girl indicated, though they explained their campaign had co-DMs, the boyfriend being the other. I asked the DM her age (24) and asked her if 5E was her first edition of D&D? No, she'd started with 3.5.

Then I asked the young woman how she'd learned to DM. Slightly embarrassed, she explained she'd listened to a podcast (the name escapes me...I'm on my final glass of wine) about a father's game for his children. She said the "story arc" he'd described was so inspiring that she "really wanted to become a DM" to tell similar stories. She stated that she'd never DM'd in her earlier 3.5 edition experiences, but that 5E was so "streamlined" compared to 3.5, that it was "a lot easier."

I thanked them for their time and information and left. I have never wanted so much to punch an edition of Dungeons & Dragons in the face.

I find myself wanting to run a game of 5E just to rip its balls off. Really. Just to maim that motherfucker, pull pieces off it and show some young folks how stupid and insipid it is. I realize this is very tonto...very silly of me. That I am being an old curmudgeon, pissing all over the fun of people enjoying themselves (and, just for the record, I said nothing negative or untoward to these 5E players, now did I wax on about the "glories" of older editions or retro-clones or anything...I simply asked questions and listened to answers). BUT...

But...

Those girls, those young girls (adults, sure, but I'm not sure I felt fully "mature" till age 30)...they were, well, not quite embarrassed in demeanor, but certainly apologetic. Like they felt bad about their enjoyable pastime or the way in which they'd come to it. Not just the DM, but the players as well. Like the whole thing was contemptible.

Because we hold it in contempt.

In the United States of America the greatest, most popular, most beloved sport of our nation is American Football. More Americans watch the Super Bowl every year than any other television program (not just sporting event...any program). For the rest of the world, it might be the World Cup championship...but that's only every four years. The Super Bowl is dominant in my nation. and it's growing in prominence around the world.

But did you know that professional football in the United States was once held in contempt? That it was deemed sleazy and uncouth and a terrible "profession" for any right-minded, clean-living individual? That only the lowest of the low would stoop to playing for pay (or, presumably, paying to watch paid players)? In the early decades of the sport, only the college game was revered and worthy of being lauded...until such college players as "Red" Grange started deciding to go pro.

[this, just by the way, had nothing to do with being a paid athlete. Professional baseball players, wrestlers, and fighters...including fencers in Europe!...had been around for decades before individuals decided to "professionalize" American football, and those figures were held in esteem]

American football...yes, the NFL (for it had already acquired those initials by 1922) was held in contempt by the majority of Americans for decades, even by many of those whose home town fielded a professional team. Pro players worked side-jobs and lied about their gig, despite loving the game and giving their blood, sweat, and tears to it. Despite being broken upon the gridiron and carrying debilitating injuries into their later lives. They played for love of the game...and possibly because they were (or felt they were) unsuited to better forms of employment. I would imagine that some D&D players can draw an analogy there with regard to their creative expression.

[why don't I write a novel? or poetry? why do I draw dungeon labyrinths instead of seeking employment as an actual architect? etc.]

But while I can grok that role-playing may be held in contempt by the layperson who hasn't yet been exposed to the game, what I find myself increasingly unable to abide is the contempt in which the industry holds itself.

The NFL was grown and cultivated, developed and marketed, and within about 30 years had become, if not totally respectable, at least financially stable. By the end of the 1950s, it was well on its way to becoming the most popular sporting profession in the United States.

And where is role-playing after four and a half decades? Where is the careful cultivation of our industry's leaders? What is our projected destination for this thing we call (tabletop) gaming?

Thinking about those young players at the game shop stuffing money into the pockets of a company to play a game they find "easy and streamlined" (because their only exposure has been to 3E+), who learn how to run games through random internet podcasts (because they can't figure it out from the mammoth texts), who have a desire to play, but who haven't been given the understanding or information on how and why and what makes the game so damn good, instead being fed a diet of packaged "story lines" published by a faceless corporation who holds them in contempt (save for the buying power of their wallets)...

Well, it's enough to drive me back to the bottle.

This is not another shot fired in the "edition wars," by the way. It's not a rant against 5E or Pathfinder. This is a rant against the publishers: the Wizards of the Coast and Paizos and Hasbros of the world. The folks who control the largest marketing share of the industry and thus should be held accountable as industry leaders.  Perhaps they would tell me, "hey, we're just giving players what they want...they don't know how to play, and they are crying out for new, creative adventure paths and pre-made campaigns for exploration! And our fans are voting with their wallets, buying it, and so we will continue to give it to them."

To which I'd reply: you are giving them no other choice.

It makes me angry. It really, really does.

[side note: most of this rant was written last night while deep in my cups (in case you couldn't tell). I dozed off before I could finish writing it. Welp, this morning I'm awake, sober, and coffee'd up and my mood is still pretty fiery. Sorry to any I might have offended. I will be getting back to the Middle Earth thing pretty soon...today or tomorrow, I hope]

Just trying to capture my mood...

33 comments:

  1. Nothing like projecting a little self-contempt onto other people eh. This post is a load of drunken garbage.

    Seriously, fuck off with your bullshit. There are more examples of playing, gming or setting up for games now then there have been at any time in the history of D&D. 5e is a straightforward, easy to modify version of the game, that is rightfully attracting new players.

    This kind of maudlin dickishness is de rigeur for the so-called grognard gamer these days - and it can go fuck itself.

    Maybe they were embarrassed because a rando approached them and started asking questions. Maybe you made them uncomfortable. Maybe the contempt is in your head.

    I've been playing motherfucking D&D for 30 years now. This is one of the BEST times to be a DM/gamer. Interest in the game is everywhere. I have people at parties asking me to DM. I have long-time friends who have NEVER been interested in D&D asking me to play.

    I have a large, committed group at the FLGS who PAY ME to DM Adventures in Middle Earth for them. Resources are everywhere. Podcasts, streams and let's plays show people a variety of DMing styles, and people with Patreons get paid to give people advice.

    So yeah - it's not D&D. It's you.

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    1. @ Jeremy:

      Hmm. I don’t think I disturbed those folks (as I said, they seemed amiable enough), but it’s certainly possible.

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    2. If people are paying other people to run a game for them, that indicates a problem to me.

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    3. @ Jonathan N:

      I was going to say, "you'd have to pay me to run 5E anything," but that sounded too snarky. And anyway it contradicts what I wrote about wanting to run 5E just to "rip its balls off."

      Still, there may be something to your point. Sure...I can see that possibility.

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    4. Methinks the lady doth protest too much...

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    5. I mean, the only other games that people pay other people to run for them are dealers for gambling games. Nobody pays somebody to run Monopoly for them. GMing an RPG has become something almost mythical to many people. It's strange. I really think we need a simple guide to GMing that's simple and has concrete steps and takes all the mystery out of it.

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    6. I have to kinda agree with Jeremy Murphy (although not his tone). BX and Advanced D&D (not 2 ed.) was as far as I got before university put me into hibernation. When I defrosted and started playing again, I tried to jump into 3.5 ed. but it was just too complicated for me (same with Pathfinder). I withstood the lure of 5th ed. until I started running a gaming group at my high school, and all the kids played D&DNext or 5th ed. Finally, I bit the bullet and bought the 3 core books. And you know what? I really like it. WotC has paired away all the stuff that I wasn't interested in, and made it so everyone could do some cool stuff. I like the way it still keeps some of the 1 action and 1 movement mechanics (keeps the power gamers under control) but it allows for stories. Now granted I haven't converted any of my own personal adventures and have been playing the free intro adventures that WotC and posted, but I like that, too. I don't have the time to come up with grand campaigns, and to be honest, they certainly aren't any worse than my BS. JB, I think you would enjoy it if you played with some folks of a similar age and mindset. And, let's face it, you can always find someone who enjoys a particular game system no matter how crunchy or old-school or whatever it is. That's the beauty of being a tabletop gamer these days. Lots of choices.

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    7. Angry Monk,

      JB's argument has been, many times, that you're only able to understand the 3e books because you were grounded in B/X and Advanced. You had a strong idea what the intent was and what was expected of you. But people who have NEVER played before, picking up the 5e books, are lost, because those books, by themselves, are not sufficient to teach people how to play the game. They have to go to the internet and scramble, and gawd only knows what sort of game that leads to - which is made worse by a company so aloof it doesn't care.

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    8. You're right. My familiarity with early D&D did make it more difficult to understand and less enjoyable for me. I'm not blaming the game. It's my stupid head. The folks that patiently tried to show me love 3.5. That's good. I'm not sure how many people actually learn how to play by reading the books. I know I didn't learn to play by reading the books. I learned to play from a friend's older brother. And I'm sure his games had all sort of personal quirks that weren't by the book. So what if people are learning to play from somebody on the internet. They're playing and that's the point. And if they enjoy what they're playing then that's good enough in my books.

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  2. I think it is worthwhile to write posts about how to play sandbox/location based D&D where PCs die and there's risk and reward that are formed by the organic shared storytelling of the players and GM.

    It's worth it because that's where the unique creative fun of tabletop is found.

    Yet it's really hard to say more then things like "trust me, random encounters are a good idea." It's thankless to justify encumberance to people who don't see how its connected to each pc having thier "moments" in the story (but it is because if you're the PC with the sack of rats at the right moment everyone loves you).

    So I think those of us who didn't learn about rpgs from fetchquests in WOW or tactical battles and feats in Final Fantasy but through running B2 on Summer break afternoons shouldn't be afraid to give friendly and encouraging advice and explanations of even the most obvious stuff.

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  3. Firstly, assuming other people's emotions without asking them what their emotions are is almost always wrong. You think those other players felt contempt when maybe they were experiencing embarrassment, or shyness, or wariness at being approached by a stranger.

    Secondly, the bigger RPG companies focus more on the industry and less on the hobby because they have to maintain a profit and employ lots of people. While obviously what is good for the hobby is good for the industry in the long term, in the short term you need to stay in the black and sell those adventure paths, and tactical maps, and magnetic initiative trackers, etc...

    Lastly, please remember that what you enjoy in the hobby may not be what other people enjoy in the hobby. Case in point: I would be just as happy if my RPG manuals were in black and white text with no artwork at all (similar to the classic Traveller little black books) yet other's spend a lot of time and a lot of money on the importance of art and graphic design in RPG books. To them, important. To me, not important. Some folks want a led-by-the-nose combat heavy adventure, others want to wander and talk to goblins and never draw a dagger. Different strokes.

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    1. @ Steven:

      Okay.

      In all honesty, I don't care what those kids were FEELING. Maybe this strange dude with his two small children asking questions really freaked them out. I don't THINK we were all that intimidating...again, they seemed friendly and open to conversation with us and we were only asking questions. If anything, I think they were trying to give us sincere answers because (perhaps) they thought I was considering buying the game for my children and I was trying to find out more info.

      That's a presumption on my part, sure. But I didn't say "hey, I've been playing this game for 40 years" or "hey, I have this gaming blog I've been writing for the last decade" or anything like that. I was polite, I asked, they answered, I listened. Pretty sure they didn't feel menaced by my children (who are 7 and 3), but I may be wrong.

      As I said, this post was not meant to be a shot at 5th edition (or any other). It was a continuation of the idea I was broaching in an earlier post...the idea that the industry leaders who are (nominally, I suppose) responsible for the "fantasy adventure RPG" aren't doing jack or shit to train folks how to play/run a game...and an expression of my anger and frustration.

      TSR ran itself into the ground. The "RPGA" (I believe) ran itself into the ground. D20 led to an over-saturation of the market with D20 products and ran a LOT of companies into the ground. I agree with you that bottom-line considerations in the short-term often take precedence over long-term implications. But I'm not sure they HAVE to...and if they don't, aren't they a bit short-sighted? Look at other industries that deal in creative expression.

      It doesn't bother me if folks want to play a combat-heavy RPG. *I* like combat-heavy RPGs. That's not really what I'm talking about.

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    2. Let's be honest. TSR was trying to sell it's products and sent out lots of cease and desist orders to maintain control of their brand. That's why Gygax wrote AD&D. Games Workshop was the same. Any company that is trying to stay in business wants you to buy their product. The tabletop gaming industry isn't a frigging charity! So what if WotC wants you to buy their overpriced hardcover campaign books. Don't! By the three core books (or download the free set of beginners' rules--TSR never did that!) and make up your own stuff. But let's not pretend disgust when someone wants to make money off of their intellectual property.

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    3. Angry Monk,

      All companies that sell products are subject to the opinions of its market; aren't we told that capitalism is about the consumer "voting" to decide whether or not a company is entitled to be in business? Well, that's what we're doing. The WOTC has some extraordinarily questionable business attitudes and behaviours, and because of that we are holding their feet to the fire.

      The fact that they're a bunch of greedy pigs in a business world full of greedy pigs isn't much of a defense for their attitudes towards players, many of whom are children.

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    4. I guess I would counter that you are expecting greedy pigs not be greedy pigs. Good luck with that.

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    5. That's pretty cynical.

      You know, I can write to Parker Brothers today and express my feelings about Monopoly, and I will receive a very considerate reply. If I wrote to them and told them the corner of my monopoly board was damaged inside the packaging, they would probably offer to replace the board immediately, WITHOUT asking me for a receipt or proof of purchase. My Lady Love has a penchant for following up with companies when she is unhappy with the product, and they NEVER ask for such things. I'm always agog when a six-pack of Pepsi shows up at the door, because she complained about the taste of one bottle, or we get a $25 gift certificate for toothpaste, because one of the tubes came out of the box with a tear.

      I don't think you are as wise about the ways of companies as you pretend, Mr. Monk. Businesses USUALLY want happy customers; they are USUALLY quite disturbed at the idea that there are people online complaining about how the company is doing. It is this kind of complaining that took down Blackberry and Yahoo. Don't think for a moment that the WOTC is safe; if they think they are, they're being quite stupid.

      When the tide rolls over them, because masses of people suddenly quit playing in frustration, because the company (according to Bill) decides to do less and less, it won't matter if they're greedy pigs or not. They will be broke greedy pigs.

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    6. I don't think I'm cynical, I think I'm realistic. Look if you bought a Coke, and then wrote to the company to complain that your Coke didn't taste like Pepsi, then I doubt Coke would do anything for you. They might refund your money, but Coke is super rich. So you buy D&D 5e and don't like the taste or you want it to taste like AD&D or BX...is that really a valid criticism? Why do you want WotC to change their game to fit your taste? Just play the version you like. Nobody is stopping you. There are way more products out there for older games now than there has ever been. I would say that because of the interest in WotC's version(s) of D&D, smaller old-school producers (like Mr. Blackrazor himself) are making a little dough as well. That's great! I don't understand what you're investment in WotC's version of D&D is. If you don't like the taste, stop drinking it. Maybe writing posts and sending letters to WotC to make them change the flavour will work. But I would spend my time playing a version of the game I love.
      Oh, I am also a big fan of Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game, which is free and the best damn version of BX D&D (IMO) and has tons of free supplements and modules and house rules. You should try it.

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  4. Interesting, isn't it?

    A fellow steps forward, gives a personal account of what he witnessed, with his own eyes, with the self-awareness to record his interpretations of expressions, tone, apparent belief, etcetera ...

    And is this taken at face value? No. It is immediately dumped upon by people who weren't there, who feel that clearly, the witness MUST be in the wrong, because the narrative so blatantly flies in the face of the personal beliefs of people whose opinions, in fact, have no merit whatsoever. They weren't there.

    Before reading the comments, JB, I was going to remark that the worst expression of this moment in time that you witnessed, that clearly had an impact on you, is that which we find in the apologists, who rush to defend company.

    JB, this is not a rant. This is an eye-witness account, just like hundreds you've given about Paraguay, football, matters of D&D that everyone happens to agree with, and your own children. No one has any problem taking your word on those things; it is only when you say something that they don't like that suddenly, your powers of observation are delusional.

    Are we really expected to ask what other people's emotions are, now, before we can make a judgement? I thought we learned how to do this properly in our infancy. And do we really think that people, when asked for their emotional states, tell the truth? Are we really that naive now, where it comes to figuring out our relations to other people?

    No, of course not. That's just easy internet baffle-speak, to imbue ourselves with a veneer of authority, because now we sound like a "counselor."

    JB, I'm quite certain you didn't disturb those "kids." And that you're dead right about your sense of what's going on. You talked to Bill. These other commenters did not. Hell, it's plain they did not even take your description of Bill's involvement in your thought process into account.

    You're the expert here, on what happened and what you saw. Not these people.

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  5. Hmm...Well; I kinda hold vontempt for the NFL...but that's beside the point.

    I don't really see the contempt from the industry...there's a great little youtube show with professional actors who play a homebrewed Pathfinder/ 5E, it's called Critical Role (check it out, they're just starting their 2nd campaign)...half never played before, got a great GM who does lots of tips for GMing podcasts. The show is currently spnsored by DnDBeyond, which is a digital portfolio so you don't have to lug (or buy) books as a player; keeps live track of everything...I've used DnDbeyond myself and it's awesome.

    There's a surge of pride (sometimes a bit self depricating, much like thid post was tbh) amoung gamers in my area in eastern Canada...and folks who want to play...and there are plenty, Plenty of ways to learn to play every iteration of rpgs, from shadowrun to OD&D to 5e.
    Honestly, seems like those players may just jave thought you were older amd knew way more than them...plus, being women, maybe they felt a bit out of their comfort zone.

    I hear ya, but I think if you look in the right places, there is plenty of support and a lot less congempt for players than maybe you might realize.

    Either way, seems like you are being awfully hard on yourself about this. I think the vacation may dry up that soggy feeling and help out :)

    Check out Critical Role. I started with a Rules Cyclopaedia back in, oh, '95...there wasn't the kind of help on the nrt there is now...and there was a lot of trash coming out of TSR / WotC (ahem...handbooks series anyone...Evermeet? ugh...)
    Watch these guys play, click on the links to the teaching side...I mean, thousands of hours of tips, examples...all for free and by amateur RPGthletes!

    Cheers! Have fun in Oaxuaca (sorry spelling...:())

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    1. Critical role is nothing but contempt. Oh, yes, it is loved, phenomenally loved, but is it real gaming? Or is it a bunch of paid-for participants mugging for the camera. Do these participants really care about their characters? And Mercer - who even when he is paid, can't say he's a DM first; no, no, he's a "voice actor and a DM," like DM is an afterthought, not worthy of being a status above "voice actor."

      But people see what they want to see. They desperately crave the sort of interplay a bunch of voice actors can manage, so THIS is great DMing.

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  6. Isn't it the responsibility of 'the game' to teach one how to play, rather than chasing down internet learning? DMs are the purchasers and the big corporate do not make an effort to teach and build their arsenal of skills. The argument on if you freaked the gamers out is a red herring, they were playing in a fucking nerd-a-torium, a public place.
    I am of the opinion that companies like WotC don't give a crap about their customers. Just to provide regular consumables (adventures, crunch). If a DM really knew how to run a gun they probably would not be buying the quarterly corporate railroad.
    JB, I see your fire building you have a clear mission.

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  7. less drinking, more playing! or drink as much as you want, but definitely play more! you know you want to. i know you need to. :)

    maybe even dare to play with some of those young folks. you might be surprised and actually have fun with the game. remember having fun with the game? that's something that has been lacking from your blog for a while. simple enjoyment of the game. think about that.

    as some have already pointed out, there's so much info about "how to play the game" available today, there has never been a better time to start out. some good, some bad, most mediocre, as one would suspect.

    and as one poster already said... with all due respect, it is not "them". it is you. and me. and all us folks getting older. while we might think that the kids are doing it wrong, they are only doing it in their own way. let them. they are having more fun than you are. i wonder where the anger is coming from. ;)

    sure, some of them might have bad info and run bad games. guess what, most of the games we played many, many years ago weren't that great. think of your first campaigns and judge them with what you know now. they where complete crap! and we loved them! it's their turn now.

    i have so many games going now (both as player and gm), i can't find the time for all of them. it's a great time for roleplaying. don't stand on the sidelines and grouch.

    play the game!

    ps: the bigger companies are in it for the money. fuck them, who cares about what they do?

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    1. In other words: "those kids are jumping off bridges and eating laundry detergent, but who cares? You're better than that because you're older and more experienced. Just keep it to yourself and let them live their lives. Why bother?"

      Because somebody cared about American football, or baseball, or fencing, cricket, Olympic sports, etc. And their passion and dedication led to something greater.

      Or maybe this comment is another among millions of drivel designed to make the commentator feel better about his/her lot in life (I'd speculate more but that would be rude and disingenuous).

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  8. Sorry, but I don't get the analogy to professional sports. The only people who don't want to pay athletes because it besmirches the intent of true competition are the millionaires running the show (I'm looking at you Olympic committee). All sports are entertainment. That's why we pay people millions of dollars to play games. So we can wear the jersey and pretend like the SuperBowl matters (a circus to distract from the insanity around us). Why do we like sports? Because there are rules, and people are (sometimes) punished for breaking the rules, and so we can hear about the struggles little Tommy had to make it to the top, and so we can share in a teams glory or defeat. So who cares if people get paid to play or run RPG games? If you think it's easy then try to monetize your game. Or if it doesn't matter, post it anyway for free. These are games we are taking about! Stop taking it so seriously. Find something to really get upset about.

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  9. "This thing is impossible because I say it is, why are you wasting your time?"

    I know, I should probably let the whole thing go, but it seems like so many responses to this post are predicated on the same mistaken belief: that expressing a passionate (or expert) opinion about your hobby is an illegitimate use of your time if said opinion makes the reader uncomfortable.

    Fuck that bullshit. Keep up the good work JB, know there are people out there who aren't swayed by these distractions.

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  10. Hey, man, I'm not criticizing JB. I love his posts. I'm just not sure why he was upset at these women playing a game. Were they having fun? If they were, then who cares how they learned or what they've watched? Are we supposed to jump in and tell them that they are playing their game of pretend wrong? Would you stop kids who are playing dress-up to tell them that they are doing it wrong? I'm mean seriously. Isn't there more important shit to worry about, folks?

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    1. "Isn't there more important shit to worry about," being a rhetorical device, a redirection of the conversation.

      "We need better government programs to help legal and illegal immigrants improve their situation." "Shouldn't we be more worried about homeless American citizens?" No, we should be worried about both and given that there are millions of people living in America, I'm quite certain we have enough resources to address both issues with equal concern.

      That other thing you said, however... "Are we supposed to jump in...?" That's worth exploring...

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  11. And here's a few more thoughts about it. Bottom line: in every hobby or activity, new participants learn from someone. If there's a lack of leadership or guidance, then it's perfectly reasonable for an interested party to get involved, to take up the slack, to teach new members how to play the game.

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  12. I agree with some of this - industry leaders are more concerned with profit margins than love of the game and creative potential. But that's corporations for you.

    5th edition, in and of itself, is not the problem. But 3rd, 4th, and Pathfinder surely are... or were.

    I've done my part by writing How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss. Plus, GMing for noobs. But there's always more that can be done.

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  13. "No, I'm angry about Dungeons & Dragons. Probably for stupid reasons (if being "angry about Dungeons & Dragons" wasn't stupid enough)."
    Dude, nothing pisses me off more than D&D and economics books. Emotional triggers are built around your passions, which are pretty arbitrary no matter what they happen to be.

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  14. Regarding "how to make good DMs" that is an interesting question. A lot of the Original Edition DMs were war gamers as well as readers of the pulps, classic fantasy literature and even real mythology. This gave them a grounding in the source material that I am afraid most people today lack (and probably always will - reading more than two paragraphs is 2hard for a lot of kids with their ADD). Whether or not they were 'good DMs' more broadly they did understand the concept of refereeing and fantasy/myth with a deeper meaning than the current Vidya Game approach where everything is about statistics, because that's all a 'magic sword' is to most of them - a +1.
    Now it also behooves me to mention that a lot of the kids playing D&D in the 80s were just about as ignorant of classic fantasy and Norse mythology as anyone playing it today, and I've certainly heard tell of endless arguments about stat-mongering and Munchkinism. So it's possible that most DMs have always kind of sucked, from a literary and adjucation point of view. I'd pretend to not be elitist but nobody would buy it.

    There _are_ some books out there that can give you useful advice as a DM. The Odyssey "Guides" to Campaign Management and Session Prep, "Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering", and the "Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding" all offer insights on how to practice the DMs craft that might not occur to a neophyte or experienced DM. They're also a lot better than some of the older TSR GM books that were basically just random tables with terrain geomorphs. But the only people likely to read and profit from these books are DMs that already have a grasp on their craft and are looking to improve it.

    You can't make good game masters, any more than you can make a good fencing referee. You can explain the rules, you can demonstrate the technique, but what it really takes is someone who's been there, done that, and wasn't asleep on their feet and pawning all the responsibility off onto their overworked GM. In other words, becoming a good GM means being a good player first, and good players are hard to come by.

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  15. I've taught Pathfinder and 5e (and 4e) to beginners. They have served as decent entry level games. They are more widely played and just generally more widely available. 5e is recruiting loads of people under 30 into the hobby who simply weren't being reached five years ago.

    I don't really have a beef with 5e. It seems to tick a lot of the boxes for most people. Is it the best edition of the game ever? Not sure about that, but it seems to have satisfied both the grognards and newbies I play with. Apart from the RuneQuest hard core of course!

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