Friday, December 23, 2022

Killing It Softly

All right...maybe a very SHORT blog post. 
; )

There is weirdness in the virtual (internet) air these days...anxiety over Dungeons & Dragons that I simply don't understand. Stuff about One D&D and the new OGL and the "death" of the game or the "death" of the OSR or...I don't know. Anxiety.

And I conclude this is just a cyclical thing, because Once Upon A Time, many years ago, I had similar anxieties. The Game Will Die. Go the dodo. And my children's children's children will never know the joy of kicking in a dungeon door and sticking their imaginary blade in some fairytale monstrosity.

Alexis used to give me a hard time for worrying about that kind of thing. 

Who would carry on the legacy of D&D when all the old idiots like me had passed from this planet? Who would be left to understand the "right" way to play D&D?

*sigh*  It seems like every few years I have to take stock of my own past idiocies. It's a constant process of refinement called "living an introspective life."

Cyclical. I was recently hipped to this old Raggi blog post from waaaay back in 2008...never read it at the time, and only heard about it through this video post of him reading the transcript.  However, even if I had read it back in 2008, I'm afraid much of it would have been over my head...just as it is clear from the comments that much of it was over LOTS of folks' heads. The problem is, he is conflating multiple issues into a single rant and thereby burying (or at least, confusing) the kernels of truth that he'd hit upon. 

It's taken me decades of self-work and re-wiring analysis to synthesize this kind of thing. Here's probably the best bit:
You're not playing a game pretending to navigate your playing piece (called "a character") through some story where you get to be the hero! You are using the rules to pretend to be someone and experience and react as that person would though a dangerous world. Nothing more, and nothing less. If you want to be the hero...then you get to try. To guarantee success is to defeat the entire purpose of role-playing.
[if you want to read the most pertinent bits of the post, rather than the entire screed, I'd suggest beginning your read AFTER the indented tangent]

And, you see, to me that IS fun...if by 'fun' one means an enjoyable pastime that one wants to continue pursuing for the pleasure of it. Despite his provocative title, Raggi doesn't "hate fun;" he hate's a particular brand of time-wasting that some folks (including he himself!) lazily assign the convenient label of "fun."  

I can grok that. I've been hitting the holiday goodies and holiday booze a little too hard lately myself (and my waistline bears witness to the fact). Tis the season, as they say. And while it's all well and good to hate one's lax discipline in January (and vow to take steps to rectify the back-sliding), it's important that we appreciate just why we have this period of time when we "let ourselves go:" we are enjoying the company of our fellow humans and sharing a bond of seasonal joy (and stress!) together.

Which is, of course, one of the great benefits of the Great Game of Dungeons & Dragons. It helps us connect with our fellow humans, sharing joys and excitements and stresses with them in a fashion that is UN-likely to leave (real) folks dead and bleeding on the ground.

Has crass commercialism killed the spirit of Christmas? I realize that sometimes it can feel like this. But what IS the "spirit of Christmas?" It's not like Jesus (the dude my fellow Christians and I celebrate) was born on December 25th...that was simply the day the Romans celebrated their winter solstice festival...the darkest day of the year and the mark of the return to growing light in the world. Folks wanting to listen to cheerful music, decorate their homes with lights, give gifts, and eat/drink special foods with loved ones this time of year should feel little guilt in their holiday enjoyment...whether they're believers in Christ and His message or not! If you're celebrating your shared humanity...and not robbing and murdering folks...then you're probably showing more "Christmas spirit" than MANY of us display for MOST of the year.

I celebrate Christmas in my own way...just as I play Dungeons & Dragons in my own way. I have adapted holiday traditions of my mother's family, my father's family, and my wife's family, as well as creating traditions of my own for my own family. My children will synthesize these traditions and add their own twists and tweaks...just as they will do with their D&D games. Just as their children will do, some day down the road.

Will the continued commodification of D&D and the iron grip of corporate greed destroy D&D? Are you kidding me?

Pick up an extra copy of your favorite rule system (print on demand is still available for many books). Teach the game to someone young and imaginative. Pass along the rules to them to explore on their own. Share your joy. Engage with your fellow humans in a deep and meaningful that is active rather than that of the passive consumer.

Doing this might assuage some of the anxiety. Maybe even cause it to dissipate entirely.

I (half-)joke that I'm an old man. "Old" is an extremely relative term. I'm not even 50 (that's next year), and my low impact, semi-healthful lifestyle has kept me at about the same level of fitness for a couple decades. Even so, I've been playing D&D for longer than many players have been ALIVE...that makes me a real geezer in relation to the gaming community.

Here's my "geezer wisdom" for my fellow gamers this holiday season. Worry less, play more. Play for the experience; play for the connections it makes with others. 

I'll talk at y'all in the New Year (or possibly, next week). Have a happy one, folks!


  1. Right now everyone is over-reacting and "Chicken Little"ing over it (again) when now one has even seen the new OGL. The mere fact that is going to be called "1.1" and not "2.0" should give everyone a heads up that this is a minor revision at best.
    Also it seems, to me at least, most of the people complaining are not even the ones publishing under the OGL anyway. What are Bill Webb or Jason Bulmahn or Steve Chenault saying? Those are the people with real skin in the game.

  2. Thank you Sir for sharing that! I've long struggled to explain to my players what my concept of game is. Many are in that navigate a playing piece as the "hero" of the story camp. They don't get the fact they create the story and by that, perhaps, evolve into a hero. A very safe and Happy Christmas to you and yours!

    1. Back at you, Randolph…and you’re welcome!

  3. As I am 50 and starting to feel that age and in 2022 have started to worry for the world in general, I'm now interested in posts on the JB "low impact, semi-healthy lifestyle & diet" and "geezer wisdom" and will be looking for those categories in 2023.

    You are correct that the joy of the game is its social interaction and co-operation between players, andnthat we shouldn't really worry about how it gets passed on.

    I hope you all had a good one.