Friday, January 26, 2018

Winding Down The Rant

SO...I went to bed last night considering my "B/X Guide to Middle Earth," and all of a sudden there's nigh on 30 comments on my "tipsy rant" from a couple days ago.

[just for the record, I've posted things in a much deeper alcoholic haze in the can tell when my spelling and grammar is a slobbery mess]

But rather than reply to all those comments (and boost the total up to 50+) allow me to just say a few words and move onto the next subject.

FIRST: thank you to ALL the people who commented, both detractors and supporters. It helps me to hear from both sides, and to reexamine my own thoughts. Also, I think it's helpful to my readers who bother reading the comments to see the additional thoughts folks might have on the stuff I write. Furthermore, I often can find comments to "riff off" for future posts, especially as YOUR insights and  opinions get my own juices flowing. So...THANK YOU.

[it's also just nice to know people are still reading Ye Old Blog]

SECOND (@ Shlominus): oh, I soooooo want to play with these youngsters. I am all but salivating to show kids "the ropes," though I realize they are only "my ropes." If I was single and childless, I would be offering to run games every evening. Back before Paraguay (and my kids) I was running games every Thursday down at my local bar, and I wasn't turning anyone away...and that was back before I was even thinking about "experiential D&D" and teaching techniques and stuff (things I'm thinking about now). I just wanted to show folks the joy of the game. And while many of the players who showed up were Oldsters like myself, there were at least a handful of new players who joined my table in those days...and showing them the game (and making an impression) was a definite "perk" of the experience. I still look back fondly on my time teaching my "nephews" how to play, and I eagerly look forward to the day I can teach my own kids.

Maybe tomorrow.

THIRD (@ Alexis and Angry Monk): there is definitely a fine line between being a "cynic" and a "realist;" I flirt with it often myself. I think Alexis has the right of it (as far the point of my post), but I understand why folks like Angry (and Jeremy Murphy) might take umbrage with my incendiary (or maudlin) rambling. Does it help to scream and shout into the internet void? Maybe? It helps me a bit to blow off steam. And maybe there are some folks feeling the same as me, and who get to feel a little solidarity.

Am I having a "negative impact?" Maybe: if folks feel hurt or offended because they think I'm "looking down on their gaming," if they feel I'm telling them they're "doing it wrong." Sure, I AM being judgmental...but that doesn't mean I want them to stop gaming. Just like I might criticize a particular game or design...I've never written (so far as I can remember) that some game designer should give it up, pack it in, quit their creation process. My criticism is meant to be critique...and if that doesn't come across effectively, it's mostly due to my being a poor writer, and the limitations of the medium I'm using.

Even my criticism of WotC: it's a call for change, not a demand that they close up shop. But I recognize that calling for change to corporate policy and business plans IS a bit of a fools errand, and so strong action (revolutionary action), might be necessary to elicit any meaningful change. And sometimes strong words can stir strong action.

And sometimes they don't. And sometimes (especially on a blog, which only reflects my opinion) strong words are simply about "blowing off steam." Because a person (me) gets especially irritated and complaining to my children about something they don't understand provides zero catharsis and would only confuse them. It's tricky enough explaining to my three year old why eating candy right before bed on a school night is a poor choice. I wrote in my original post...sorry for any offense my words gave,

LASTLY (@ Ozymandius): it's a habit of my generation that we tend to give advice unasked for and ask for advice when none is needed. I try to remember this and restrain myself in this regard (that's why, when I saw young folks playing 5E, I didn't throw down a copy of Labyrinth Lord on the table and say, "here, try THIS out instead!"). I've gotten pretty good in recent years about avoiding the temptation. But this blog is the repository for my personal thoughts, especially on gaming, and I assume folks coming here are somewhat interested in what I have to say on the matter. I agree with your sentiment that we have a responsibility to step in if we see someone about to "jump off a bridge;" but gaming is hardly the same thing as eating detergent.

I don't step on folks' games (those kids at the shop were still setting up and waiting for another player or two), but people who read my blog should certainly expect to get an eyeful of opinion. Because of my own policy with regard to comments (I allow them) I understand I might have to deal with pushback. I hope that I am mature enough (at my age) to glean something useful out of the dissenting opinions.

AND...that's about all I want to say. For now.
; )


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Without going full Socratic here, let me ask, what kind of pedagogical infrastructure would make you happy?

    WotC and Paizo training acolytes in the fine art of Dungeon Mastering is a horrid prospect that makes me shudder with rage, that much I know for certain.

    The OSR doesn't fare much beter. It has Matt Finch's primer, an unduly inflammatory screed of a broadsheet that gets trotted out every so often and has done for the last eight years, to no real effect because it contains nothing of pedagogical merit; and it has Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which is how the hipsters are learning old-school these days, and I'm certain that I don't like whatever it's teaching them. "Adventure sucks and it should punish adventurers with the temerity to go delving into a negadungeon" about sums it up, I think, and that's awful.

    The "nostalgia goggles" approach? The various D&D Basic Sets down through the years, and "teaching" modules like Keep on the Borderlands, were widely popular, but they were never explicit enough about what they were teaching or even (in the case of B2) that they were teaching something in the first place. And they left a lot of young gamers flailing and "doing it wrong" back then, the same as now (minus the accumulated cruft of decades exulting "story" as the point of RPGs—nowadays the mere fact that D&D has seeped into the popular culture in mutant form corrupts any attempt for a neophyte to learn it properly).
    In short, they lacked the body of theory that the OSR has since built up. So I think (and this is certainly something I hope to address myself in the near future) what's needed are proper teaching tools that teach by example in the execution. Adventure modules and campaign guides that explain how and why they do what they do. Not dungeon master's guides or how-to books or D&D for dummies; new Keeps on the Borderlands and Castles Greyhawk and Wilderlands of Whatever Kind of Fantasy you Like that delve in detail into "how and why this sausage was made, what to do with it now that you have it, and how to roll your own."

    That's going to be my aproach, anyway.

    1. @ John:

      Your question is a good one. What IS a constructive paradigm shift?

      [sorry...just trying to sum up your query]

      It deserves a measured, thoughtful response from myself...something that needs its own blog post. But that's where I'm going with this line of discussion. I don't think anyone's quite gotten to an answer yet...I know I'm still considering possibilities myself.

      But I think (I hope) there ARE answers...multiple ones. Your approach might be one, but I think we're just in the beginning of this discussion.

  3. Hey JD, thanks for the response. I love reading your blog, and it's yours so do what you want. Carry on ranting!

  4. I don't come here to read 'fair and balanced' bullshit. I want JD's fiery rants whether they are stone sober or in the middle of absinthe haze. I can't speak of all the philosophical, theoretical crap, there is enough room for differences and disagreements. They help shape and move things forward. Keep up the righteous fights.

  5. You're right, there are certain relationships that prevent us from stepping in and giving advice unbidden. Doesn't mean that there isn't a need, just that we're not always the right person to fill that need.

  6. If Labyrinth Lord didn't give clerics spells at first level, it would be playable.


  7. I'll just chime in to say that I most enjoy the blog when you're being productive. I'm in the group that reads the more ranty or maudlin posts and sees someone who seems pretty unhappy, at least with the state of gaming in your life, to the point of ripping on others for having fun wrong. That's unfortunate. The rants can be informative or thought provoking at times, but I much prefer when we're brainstorming on BX Middle Earth or CDF instead. Let's do that more, 'k?

  8. I'll also note that this one did get me to finally add Alexis blog to my reader feed, so there is that. I'd read the odd post here and there but haven't been a regular follower...

  9. Granted, DevDigs. But do consider this: how many bad memories do we have from misunderstandings and feeling misused by friends and acquaintances? How many years do the wounds from those things stay with us? How precisely are we handicapped for life by those first few experiences we have with others at 13, 14 and 15, when we dare to share our passions for games like this, despite what our parents or teachers might think? And how many young children who dared to share those passions had that sharing pushed in their face by someone blaring that the game is about THIS or that the DM is NEVER WRONG?

    We don't know. We can never know. But we know that there is pain there, because most of us can still remember moments from our own childhoods, when we were at the mercy of some DM or some favored, abusive player.

    It's not eating detergent. But it isn't harmless, either. I'm always astounded how so many parents can forget how, when they were children, all the games that were played were not "harmless fun."

    As Pat Benetar put it, Hell is for Children.

  10. @ Rikhard:

    Apologies, but somehow your comments were deleted. It wasn't me, I swear!

    You make some good points: I certainly wasn't as well read on history and mythology in my youth as I am now. However, I will disagree on two points:

    1) I don't believe it is necessary to be a good player in order to be a good DM. Personally, my play style is awful, but many folks like me as a DM. I've known other DMs who were better suited for the role than for the role of player as well.

    2) I disagree with the notion that you "can't make good game masters." Certainly practice can hone one's craft, but I do believe it's possible to give someone a better base of support to stand on.

    Probably depends on how one defines "good" game mastering. I'm talking competence, and you may be talking about fantastic adventure crafters who can provide a rave-worthy session.

    Here's the thing: I think that the "magical game session" IS a matter of competence. Many of us are laboring under the illusion that it's something else. But that's because we aren't communicating the base competency skills effectively.

    But that will have to be another post...
    ; )