Sunday, December 23, 2018

RPG 201

Looking over Ye Old Blog, I see that I've written more than 30 posts that mention or are directly related to the work of Alexis Smolensk. That's more than two-and-a-half times as many posts as I have for DragonLance (which probably says something about my priorities and interests). Welp, here's another one.

Today is December 23rd and I'm writing from Orizaba, Veracruz (that's in Mexico, folks); local time is 10am (at the moment) and I got up around 8:30am (after partying till 1am or so). My last post was written on the 20th. I started traveling on the 21st (left the house at 6:30am), landed in Mexico City around 8pm, spent the night in a hotel, then took a four-hour bus ride to Orizaba on the 22nd. Seen a lot of old friends and family, done a lot of eating, drinking, and merriment, spent a lot of time dozing (when possible) on planes and buses, when I wasn't entertaining my two small children or trying to wrangle giant bags filled with gifts through various security lines.

In the free waking moments I've had, I've been devouring Alexis's RPG 201 course material.

I think it was back in November, that I first checked out a couple of his classes (the 15th class, and his mid-term exam)...probably when I had some spare time over the Thanksgiving holiday. I was interested and wanted to go back and catch up on my Alexis reading but...well, life, you know? Then, probably around the time I was shutting down my laptop to pack it for the trip, I chanced to read his most recent Lab class...and then went and read his other two lab classes...and then decided I needed to go back to the beginning. Which is what I've done.


Alexis started this series of posts back in August, and has so far put together 20 classes and three labs, as well as several (what I'd call) "side-bar" posts providing additional explanation, reasoning, and methodology. Reading it really does feel like taking a course in the psychology of role-playing game operation...though, I might have called it "205" (as I wrote in 2014, I consider the first parts of his book How to Run as the 201 course material). Regardless, it's fantastic...and a very, very good read.

I strongly recommend folks check it out, and consider their own gaming/DMing experiences in light of the material. I don't think it's a stretch to say Alexis is doing some of the most important academic work on role-playing games on the internet (some might argue he's the ONLY person doing real academic work on RPGs). Folks should not be put off by the intellectual nature of the subject matter; it's both accessible (with a little patience), and pertinent to any tabletop role-playing (not just D&D, and certainly not just "ancient edition" D&D).

My understanding of my own game mastering has increased in leaps and bounds since I started reading this series...and I'm only caught up through November (I'm debating doing the mid-term essays...even though I missed the due I think they're still a great mental exercise). I have a strong feeling that I'll be returning to this "coursework" in the future to help cement certain concepts and ideas; hopefully, Alexis will compile the classes into a single text book after he's finished the series, as I'd love to have it available as a reference. Hell, I'll volunteer to edit the damn thing!

Anyway, my boy's up now (and breakfast is nearly ready), so I've got to go. Don't know how much posting I'll get done here in Mexico, but there's plenty to read over at The Tao of D&D. You should really check it out.

Feliz Navidad!


  1. It must hurt a little that every time you write a post about me, the number of comments you get is zero. People don't like me. The last thing they want to hear is praise about me. Each time you step forward, JB, you hurt this blog a little bit.

    Thank you for the praise. I feel good knowing I'm hitting the mark with someone as influential, as intelligent and as successful as you are. I'm sorry that my reputation casts a pale on it. I'd like to do something about it ... but sometimes, burning bridges leaves a memory that won't go away by building a new bridge.

    1. @ Alexis:

      I've written plenty of posts that got cricket responses, man. Nothing new there.

      Regardless of people's feelings about you, your work is really starting to taking off. My attempt to drive readers over to your blog is something I'm offering as a SERVICE to the folks who are still following me (a lot less after my four month layoff between July and November)'s worthwhile reading, chockfull of useful, practical information and thoughtful analysis.

      Our community (the gaming community) benefits from more intellectual discourse, not less! As blogging across our niche of the web has fallen off, you're one of the only people treading new ground. I'll do what I can to help people see/recognize it...because I care (just as I know you do).

      Anyway, don't worry about it, man. You keep on doing what you're doing. I plan on writing a post or two about a couple of your 201 classes here, talking about how they relate to my personal experience...just as soon as the holiday season calms down a bit.
      ; )

    2. Thank you. You're a good friend. Feliz Navidad!