Friday, February 20, 2009

That old-fashioned antagonism; or, this is why we can't have nice things. Especially, it seems, if you're a lowly player.

Some nosing and poking about my blogroll (and my unwieldy pile of bookmarks) this morning reminded me to go check out a copy of Knockspell. After all, a zine that was going to support Labyrinth Lord sounded good now that I've finally acquired a hardcopy of the game ...

Despite the lack of much of anything explicitly for LL that I noticed in my first breezethrough, I liked a goodly amount of the content. Gabor Lux's adventure Isles on an Emerald Sea was quite nice, and Robert Lionheart's Random Hireling Generator is an absolute stitch. I won't be surprised if I find other favoured pieces when I go through it again.

Alas, the good parts are not what I am here for at the moment. I am here, instead, to air my part about the one thing that -- to be perfectly honest -- soured my temperament to the point that I'm surprised the nifty things seemed nifty at all.

That one thing is an editorial by Tim Kask, a gentleman who's been around since the wee early days of D&D. The editorial is titled "Who sucked the fun out of RPGing?" -- and that alone should have been a fair warning to me, as those sorts of editorials by anyone seldom appeal to me. But I read nonetheless.

I am not, in a word, impressed.

The editorial reads, to me, like a paen to everything that irritates me and makes me want to distance myself from the so-called "old school Renaissance" even more than I technically already am. It is fair that Mr. Kask prefers the original edition; it is fair that he dislikes later editions. I can be picky about my editions myself. But passages like 'How did [D&D] go so wrong? How did the game morph into today’s endless editions, each seemingly worse than the preceding, each more hidebound, restrictive and dogmatic?' -- that smacks of the kind of grognardism that I do not much like.

Fine. Fair enough; this is his opinion, and like all of us he is entitled to his opinion. But the remainder of the editorial is what really ground my gears, as Mr. Kask spends a goodly number of paragraphs detailing how any sort of rules debate or elaboration (or nitpicky things like the damage of fire vs. lightning, granted) never happened in the good ol' days; they were having too much fun. And what killed the fun?

I'll let the gentleman's closing paragraph speak for him:

'It all starting going bad with the publishing of AD&D, The Player’s Handbook. Here come the rules lawyers, the nitpickers and the homegrown experts. The fun started to leech away within months. Now there were dicta, dogma and regulations; gone were the days of guidelines. And who was to blame for this sorry, disreputable state of affairs. The players…'


The Player's Handbook ruined the fun of D&D?

Players having access to some of the Holy Writ ruined the fun of D&D?

The DM not having complete and utter control of said Holy Writ ruined the fun of D&D?


This explains so much of what bothers me about hardcore grognardism. Do please excuse me while I run in the other direction as far as my feet can carry me.

41 comments:

noisms said...

Nicely put. I used to get myself involved in the edition wars but now I really can't see the point; I think if you have to denigrate something else to explain why what you like is so good, you're in trouble. I'm guilty of that as much as anyone, actually, so add hypocrisy to my list of faults!

taichara said...

Nicely put. I used to get myself involved in the edition wars but now I really can't see the point; I think if you have to denigrate something else to explain why what you like is so good, you're in trouble. I'm guilty of that as much as anyone, actually, so add hypocrisy to my list of faults!

I think we're all hypocritical at some point or another, so adding it just to your list of faults would make me a hypocrite *grins*

But it's true, isn't it? It's too terribly easy to build up that one likes by tears down what others like, and some of the old school camps seems verily to thrive on that sort of thing. It's discouraging.

What bothered me even more, though, was that most blatant example of players-as-game-destroyers. Being the DM isn't a privilege or a right -- and I've seen as many rules-lawyering DMs as players. It was a pathetic cheap shot, in my opinion, and that it came from someone who was involved in early D&D makes it all the more sour for me.

JimLotFP said...

>>The Player's Handbook ruined the fun of D&D?
Players having access to some of the Holy Writ ruined the fun of D&D?

I haven't read the editorial in question, but I have read Kask's thoughts on this before.

I do believe it's more "AD&D," with its standardization (remember Gygax's Dragon editorials and in-book admonitions about what "Official AD&D" was supposed to be), in total that he's talking about, not the idea that the players get their own book.

He prefers the more free-wheeling, not-so-many-rules-to-argue approach of OD&D.

Basically what he's saying is the edition rot started with AD&D FIRST edition, in the 70s, not with 2 or 3 or 4.

... unless he's changed his views in the editorial, in which case ignore me. :D

taichara said...

I do believe it's more "AD&D," with its standardization (remember Gygax's Dragon editorials and in-book admonitions about what "Official AD&D" was supposed to be), in total that he's talking about, not the idea that the players get their own book.

Perhaps he's made that statement before; but the intent of comments such as "And who was to blame for this sorry, disreputable state of affairs. The players…" seems clear enough to me. And it is not particularly pleasant, nor flattering.

Reagrdless of his stance on "Official D&D", he comes across as having a distinct bias as to who is allowed to have any control, and where the need to pile on more rules / nitpick existing rules came from.


He prefers the more free-wheeling, not-so-many-rules-to-argue approach of OD&D.

This was clear enough, and not something I have issue with.


Basically what he's saying is the edition rot started with AD&D FIRST edition, in the 70s, not with 2 or 3 or 4.

Oh, he did indeed. And he laid the cause of -- or at the very least the perpetuation of -- that rot at the table at the feet of players (in this editorial), when I have known just as many rules-lawyering DMs in my time.


... unless he's changed his views in the editorial, in which case ignore me. :D

I think he may have; or simply had a specific axe to grind in the editorial in question. Have you seen it, aside from the excerpts I posted (I wouldn't want to just copy the thing wholesale)?

Viriatha said...

Players like to know where they stand and what they can expect. That's hardly a crime. I don't much like rules-lawyers but few players want to be at the mercy of whim.

taichara said...

Players like to know where they stand and what they can expect. That's hardly a crime. I don't much like rules-lawyers but few players want to be at the mercy of whim.

My sentiments exactly. Neither should it be a crime that players have some input, at least where their own characters are concerned.

I really fail to see where such a thing as a Player's Handbook is a Bad Thing [tm] ...

Chgowiz said...

Wow. And here I was feeling back for my bit of grognardism over at Greywulf's blog - although I am glad I had that debate because it really opened my eyes to a good reason why people liked 3E/4E and I'll take that into consideration.

I can't justify or defend Mr. Kask's opinion, but do realize that not all of us grognards feel that players destroyed anything.

I've said before that the games we play and the way we play reflect us, our views on society/culture and where society/culture is at. D&D grew and expanded for a great many reasons - reading Grognardia has helped me to see one POV, reading other blogs has helped me to see others.

In the end, I want to run and play the games that I want to run and play in. Although I probably rant a bit too much about stereotypes of old-school and how bad they are, it's a shame to see people scared away from old-school play on the basis of one person's rants. I hope you come back.

taichara said...

Wow. And here I was feeling back for my bit of grognardism over at Greywulf's blog - although I am glad I had that debate because it really opened my eyes to a good reason why people liked 3E/4E and I'll take that into consideration.

That right there is why I wouldn't put yourself and others into the same kind of category as Mr. Kask. You're willing to see another side and opinion; some people, it seems, are too hidebound and bitter. Or summat.


I can't justify or defend Mr. Kask's opinion, but do realize that not all of us grognards feel that players destroyed anything.

Oh, I know. You yourself have been very supportive of me here, frex, and it's very much appreciated :3 It was just very discouraging to read, and from someone who worked on early D&D to boot.


I've said before that the games we play and the way we play reflect us, our views on society/culture and where society/culture is at. D&D grew and expanded for a great many reasons - reading Grognardia has helped me to see one POV, reading other blogs has helped me to see others.

I like to think that playstyle and preference -- and even the type of setting and amount of setting -- is really edition-free. Like you say, it's a product of who we are and what we've known.


In the end, I want to run and play the games that I want to run and play in. Although I probably rant a bit too much about stereotypes of old-school and how bad they are, it's a shame to see people scared away from old-school play on the basis of one person's rants. I hope you come back.

My problem with the old school stereotypes is that a terrible number of times they seem to pan out. This is depressing and discomforting, because older editions are what I like and play.

... Actually, let me qualify that. I like older editions but (as I think I've mentioned before? and this blod makes ... a little obvious ;3) I rather fall into the "uncanny valley" of old school - new school, preferring BEMCI and 2e. So I'm a little uncomfortable in amongst the scrimmage at the best of times, when I'm honest about it.

It's not just Mr. Kask's rant but a number of other factors. And I don't know that I've run away from old school altogether -- assuming one could say I was honestly there in the first place; I don't feel that I quite seem to fit -- but more that I continue to feel stuck in the uncanny valley.

I'm still going to be here, and the hamster hoarding will continue. If I might be a little stroppy myself for a moment: I'm not about to let the crusty hardcore grognards take my games away from me -- they make me happy, and if the hardcores have to spit on them to make themselves feel better, I think that makes them the poorer people for it.

Chgowiz said...

Well, anything prior to 3E feels old school to me, so here's yer sign (and beard) ;)=

My problem with the old school stereotypes is that a terrible number of times they seem to pan out.

One could say that about newer versions and the stereotypes - that they pan out - but sometimes stereotypes are valid and sometimes they're not. I'm also realizing just now writing this that perhaps they've become self-fulfilling, especially with the way the Intertubes tends to eat itself with arguing. Now I feel doubly bad for the debate yesterday.

taichara said...

Well, anything prior to 3E feels old school to me, so here's yer sign (and beard) ;)=

Thank ye kindly ~

*hangs up sign, applies beard with spirit gum* ;3


One could say that about newer versions and the stereotypes - that they pan out - but sometimes stereotypes are valid and sometimes they're not.

Oh, make no mistake, I know that all too well also *grins* there's no side of the angels in this particular battle, no indeed.

Maybe it's because edition-wise I've been all over the map (though by no means everything!), but it seems to me that all sides have good points and bad points. The trick is to find where you're comfortable, and be happy there.


I'm also realizing just now writing this that perhaps they've become self-fulfilling, especially with the way the Intertubes tends to eat itself with arguing. Now I feel doubly bad for the debate yesterday.

I'm inclined to think you're right; a scent of disdain on the air, or the suspicion of one, and circling of the wagons begins. Which can lead to hostility, and ever and on it goes. It doesn't matter where it started.

(I just want my games D: )

I'm not familiar with the debate you mention ... what happened? There was a something yesterday that annoyed me greatly, but I kept my opinions on it off of the intertubes, and I think you're referring to something different ...?

Chgowiz said...

Greywulf had an interesting post about 4e on his blog, where he romped on his interpretation of old school being "kill-em-all" and take all the stuff. I responded, a bit spirited, and it went downhill from there for awhile. I was rather embarrassed by the end of the whole thing because it ended up circling itself. I did learn something about why some people might prefer rules-heavy editions that I had never considered before, so that's all good.

I don't mind debate, especially when I learn something, but I think I was embarrassed for sounding so grognardish.

Blotz said...

"It all starting going bad with the publishing of AD&D, The Player’s Handbook."

This is not the first time I've heard something like this. It won't be the last I suppose.

This is like saying "Jazz was great up until they ruined it by recording it and selling it on vinyl and playing it on the radio."

Or "Baseball was better back before they ruined it by letting the pitchers throw overhand"

I'll allow for preference in play styles. I've learned a lot about the history of my hobby reading Chogwiz's blog and James at Grognardia. I love your blog even though I'll probably never get to run Labyrinth Lord or BECMI, (still holding out hope I can get my group to play C&C). If we can take anything from the proliferation of old school blogs and support for out of print games is that the RPG community is a lot broader and more diverse than we possibly imagined 2 years ago. And I think that's a good thing. I think most of the fine bloggers and commenters here would agree.

Unless you're the person who said:
"It all starting going bad with the publishing of AD&D, The Player’s Handbook."

That person appears to want the rest of us to go away.

JimLotFP said...

>>This is like saying "Jazz was great up until they ruined it by recording it and selling it on vinyl and playing it on the radio."

No it isn't.

>>That person appears to want the rest of us to go away.

No they don't.

Blotz said...

">>This is like saying "Jazz was great up until they ruined it by recording it and selling it on vinyl and playing it on the radio."

No it isn't.

>>That person appears to want the rest of us to go away.

No they don't."

Oh, Ok then, I'm glad we cleared that up.

Randall said...

The Player's Handbook ruined the fun of D&D?

I think Mt. Kask thinks it was the start.

Not because it was a book for the players instead of for the GM (Men & Magic in OD&D was really a player's book, after all), but because it was the start of AD&D where TSR (mistakenly in Kask's opinion) gave in to the people (players and GMS) playing OD&D and writing in with all their questions wanting official rulings from TSR on how to do X and Y.

This seems to have only lead to more requests from players/GMs for more official rulings (see all the Sage Advice columns in old issues of The Dragon) making for even more official rules.

Of course, Gary probably made it worse with his ideas that AD&D could become like chess with tournaments and grand champion players/GMs and the need for everyone to play by the exact same rules so this could be possible. Most people playing D&D and then AD&D were not interested in tournaments and just read this stuff in The Dragon and rolled their eyes.

However, for those of us who preferred less official rules and more GM rulings, the publication of the first of the two AD&D rulebooks was the start of the road to more and more detailed rules which became harder and harder to modify without breaking something (or upsetting new players who expected things to be played by the book).

And it was all because we the players of D&D (collectively) demanded it with our whining to TSR for official rulings on every little thing.

taichara said...

@Chgowiz:

Greywulf had an interesting post about 4e on his blog, where he romped on his interpretation of old school being "kill-em-all" and take all the stuff. I responded, a bit spirited, and it went downhill from there for awhile. I was rather embarrassed by the end of the whole thing because it ended up circling itself. I did learn something about why some people might prefer rules-heavy editions that I had never considered before, so that's all good.

I don't mind debate, especially when I learn something, but I think I was embarrassed for sounding so grognardish.


I've been there -- on both sides of the fence, really -- so I think I can sympathize. Hindsight is ever perfect, hey?


@Blotz:

Unless you're the person who said:
"It all starting going bad with the publishing of AD&D, The Player’s Handbook."

That person appears to want the rest of us to go away.


You've summed it up pretty bloody nicely, from what I can see. And it's not a particularly pleasant viewpoint to come across.


@JimLotFP:

>>That person appears to want the rest of us to go away.

No they don't.


Sure could have fooled me.


@Randall:

Unfortunately for Mr. Kask, he's beating a straw man and insulting a good many people in the process.

AD&D didn't take his game or kill his dog. 3e didn't take 2e away from me. If he didn't like AD&D, he didn't have to play it.

And anyone with that much bitterness and vitriol as to be making fairly vicious blanket statements the way Mr. Kask did? To my eyes, that's a very sad person who needs to, frankly, get over his issues and play his game.

JimLotFP said...

>>AD&D didn't take his game or kill his dog. 3e didn't take 2e away from me.

No, they didn't take it away, but they tried their very best to do it. They divided a player base and did their best to make sure the previous versions were seen as inferior and out of date. This absolutely makes it more difficult to play an earlier version of the game.

Kask was there. He was part of TSR and was with Gygax when they did this. He knows the mentality within the company and the player base they were reacting to. And 30 years later, he thinks it was a big mistake.

He doesn't want people to go away. He wants people to ignore their error (as he sees it) and everything that grew from that error, and come back.

I can see his point. I ran an AD&D campaign a few years back and ended up ignoring a decent amount of the system, and when that ended (after a full year... it was a successful campaign) I said "never again." Now I've been using an iteration of "Basic" D&D, and then attempting an OD&D/Chainmail hybrid.

taichara said...

He doesn't want people to go away. He wants people to ignore their error (as he sees it) and everything that grew from that error, and come back.

He wants people to come back?

If he wants to cultivate an environment where people would feel welcome to come back -- or visit for the first time -- he'd do well to learn how not to be insulting and antagonistic. Because, frankly, that is exactly what he comes across as -- and in a zine meant to foster more interest in, and new blood for, the old school at that.

Poor form, and poor attitude. It might resonate with the rest of old guard, perhaps; but it certainly doesn't do much to foster a welcoming atmosphere for new blood.

Why come back, or come for the first time, in the face of such an antagonistic attitude?


I can see his point. I ran an AD&D campaign a few years back and ended up ignoring a decent amount of the system, and when that ended (after a full year... it was a successful campaign) I said "never again." Now I've been using an iteration of "Basic" D&D, and then attempting an OD&D/Chainmail hybrid.

To be perfectly frank, whatever his point may be -- and he's as entitled to it as anyone else -- if he can't express his love for a system without not only denigrating other systems but the people who play them, I don't want nor need to hear it.

The old school -- as he sees it, in any case -- will grow only when those who have enjoyed the other systems are welcomed, not told that they are and were the enemy.

And that is all there is to say, so far as I am concerned.

James Maliszewski said...

I think you're misunderstanding what Mr Kask meant by "the players." I suspect he was including referees in that category. His point, as I see it, was that the players of the game all too quickly succumbed to the desire to have TSR imagine the game for them and the result was first AD&D, with its clearer, better-stated, and more restrictive rules, and then each subsequent edition that built on that same foundation of comprehensiveness.

So, while I think it's fair to argue against him that comprehensiveness and clarity aren't necessarily bad things, I wouldn't take offense at his use of the term "players." I suspect the vast majority of players of D&D who wanted such things were in fact referees. These were the guys calling up Gary Gygax at his home late at night, asking for rulings on the interpretation of OD&D, after all.

taichara said...

I think you're misunderstanding what Mr Kask meant by "the players." I suspect he was including referees in that category. His point, as I see it, was that the players of the game all too quickly succumbed to the desire to have TSR imagine the game for them and the result was first AD&D, with its clearer, better-stated, and more restrictive rules, and then each subsequent edition that built on that same foundation of comprehensiveness.

If I be misunderstanding, your restatement -- if anything -- only firms my opinion up more.

Neither do I, personally, think "succumbed" is necessarily a good word for it, but that is neither here nor there at the moment.


So, while I think it's fair to argue against him that comprehensiveness and clarity aren't necessarily bad things, I wouldn't take offense at his use of the term "players." I suspect the vast majority of players of D&D who wanted such things were in fact referees. These were the guys calling up Gary Gygax at his home late at night, asking for rulings on the interpretation of OD&D, after all.

I will and would take just as much offense if he includes players and referees both, to be frank, and it boils down to the same reason. It comes across -- and for myself personally, is -- dismissive, and insulting, to read. Especially from one who was at the beginning of it all.

I won't spend the time restating again the longer-winded explanation I gave above; suffice it to say, I maintain my stance, and say that such a bitter and antagonistic attitude is hardly the way to encourage others into (or back into, as the case may be) the old school fold.

To see it in Knockspell, a forum for encouraging that growth of the old school, was even worse.

Badelaire said...

I'd just like to toss in that everyone who's still cranky about what happened 32 years ago is more than welcome to have a big steaming mug of Get The Hell Over It And Move On.

But then again, I've had half a lifetime of fun playing a whole slew of RPGs, old and new, with widely varied rules, methods, styles, and player bases, and somehow have avoided being a bitter, cranky old crabapple in the process. Go figure.

Now, off to do more work with that restrictive, confining, new-fangled Castles & Crusades game I somehow mistakenly like so much.

Doug Easterly said...

JimLotP wrote:

Kask was there. He was part of TSR and was with Gygax when they did this. He knows the mentality within the company and the player base they were reacting to. And 30 years later, he thinks it was a big mistake.

He doesn't want people to go away. He wants people to ignore their error (as he sees it) and everything that grew from that error, and come back.

There seems to be a logical error in thinking that D&D would have thrived had it ignored their player base and that forcing people to return to something they pushed to change will be likely or productive.

While such sorts of regrets and hindsight are interesting to read, I find they often fail to actually reflect a likely outcome.

JimLotFP said...

>>There seems to be a logical error in thinking that D&D would have thrived had it ignored their player base

Maybe it would have... and not necessarily commercially.

>>and that forcing people to return to something they pushed to change will be likely or productive.

Working towards a goal is better than doing nothing as far as making that goal happen.

>>While such sorts of regrets and hindsight are interesting to read, I find they often fail to actually reflect a likely outcome.

The worthiness of a fight is not determined by the likelihood of the outcome.

And if you read the forewords to Supplements III and IV in 1976, Kask was expressing these same sentiments (complaining about certain player types) in officially released D&D materials.

Korgoth said...

Dude, man up! How dare Kask voice his opinion, eh? He might actually hurt somebody's wittle feewings.

His point is obviously, as the Jims have it, that the difference between OD&D and AD&D is that in OD&D you took the basic framework and made your own unique game out of it.

But a lot of people evidently didn't want that, or couldn't handle it. They were constantly beating down the door for an "official" way to do things (not out of malice, just out of missing the albeit obscurely-expressed point). And the subsequent history of the D&D game is that inexorable march into greater and greater layers of officialdom.

Now, it's a bit of a "slippery slope" argument, whatever one thinks of those in general, and Kask may have overstated his case (maybe or maybe not), but it stands in and of itself as an interesting observation.

If you go around with such a thin skin you're going to miss a lot of important observations in life. So put on some pants, let out your pigtails and give Kask another read.

taichara said...

@Korgoth:

So sorry, my dear; but anyone who has to start their rebuttal with such a pathetic insult as "wittle feewings" quite plainly has no leg to stand on and is trying to cover that fact with a personal attack.

"Man up?" "Let out my pigtails?"
If I ever take that "advice", I think I shall take it from someone with a little more maturity of their own.

Good job at making your side of the argument look bad. *golf clap*

Will said...

"in OD&D you took the basic framework and made your own unique game out of it."

I guess it would just blow his mind completely if he found out that many (probably most) people did the exact same thing with AD&D.

The people "calling up Gary Gygax at his home late at night, asking for rulings" may have made a big impression on him (they would on me), but I wonder how representative of "the players" they ever really were.

I take issue with Kask's editorial not because of his tone, but because I think he's raging against a beast largely of his own imagining.

JimLotFP said...

>>I guess it would just blow his mind completely if he found out that many (probably most) people did the exact same thing with AD&D.

This kind of willful misinterpretation is why people get all pissy in their editorials in the first place.

The author of AD&D didn't even run AD&D by the book for crying out loud.

taichara said...

@Will:

I take issue with Kask's editorial not because of his tone, but because I think he's raging against a beast largely of his own imagining.

The two, I admit, are hard to separate in my mind, as his tone stems directly from this notion he has. But you do have a point. ;3

K. Bailey said...

"Good job at making your side of the argument look bad. *golf clap*"

The snark makes me think you're not really trying to make a good faith effort to see the other side, and I can't even tell why you're offended exactly. I could be misreading, as I'm in a bit of a hurry, but I'll just say that the broad swipes at oldie gamers are not exactly leading me give a shit about your viewpoint, either. Sad because probably we'd all agree on most stuff.

Unless you're one o' them weird 4E lovers!

All that said, after reading that Dragonsfoot thread back when, I did not at all come away with a positive impression of Kask. I haven't read what he wrote in Knockspell but I can imagine it being bitter and polarizing. So I'm fully willing to believe you're justifiably irked.

taichara said...

@K. Bailey:

"Good job at making your side of the argument look bad. *golf clap*"

The snark makes me think you're not really trying to make a good faith effort to see the other side, and I can't even tell why you're offended exactly.


Please. You have the nerve to comment on my "snark" and say you don't see a "good faith" effort? Did to happen to read the comment I was responding to there?

I suppose Korgoth is permitted to be insulting to me and I have to simply roll over and take it "in good faith". No, I don't think so. And if you care to be applying that kind of double standard, I don't give a damn what you think of me either.

As for 4e loving, I should think that my the existence of this blog and its contents make a statement enough as to where I am on the edition scale.

JimLotFP said...

Silly us.

Kask's editorial is part of the preview portion of Knockspell available at the link in the original post.

Not that it changes much about the discussion at hand...

Matt Finch said...

I'm glad the editorial is generating controversy; this was my purpose in publishing it. I definitely think Mr. Kask meant players of the game, rather than non-referee players, whether one likes that better or worse. My own view is that later editions have altered the game from a more narrative style into a more head-to-head style, which is a great game if what you want to do is match wits with the referee in a fair fight - rather more like a board game - and I don't mean that in a bad way. 3e in particular laid down rules and parameters for the DM, which I think were specifically designed to facilitate this fair matching of wits. In the original editions, if the DM were to go "all-out" it would be a slaughter and a crappy game. The Killer DM most of us have encountered at some point is someone who wanted to play the wrong game with the wrong rules. 3e provides a much better framework for this kind of game. Which focuses the old school/new school debate in a much more productive context, because it illustrates how the styles of play are inherently different, and the rules facilitating those games. To evaluate 3e by the standards of 0e is just as wrong as to evaluate 0e by the standards of 3e, which we often bemoan when we see it done. People frequently don't grasp that both rulesets facilitate a particular method of gaming. I don't think 3e is a cruddy game - I just don't like the role into which a DM is cast when the game is designed to give him restrictive parameters for the sake of playing a more competitive game. I see the DM as a facilitator of a game in which the parameters are much more elastic for the purpose of emphasizing the fantasy over the competition. Obviously, neither of these characterizations is absolute - it's a trend that has ended up with two games gelling at two different poles of how gaming can be conducted.

Knockspell is definitely designed to draw people into old school gaming, but it's a hobbyist rag, not a commercial venture. So I'm not going to pull peoples' punches for them by the use of editorial fiat. I think that would be a serious detriment to the magazine's vibrancy and mentality.

What I hope people will take from that article is the fact that OD&D is not AD&D, and that AD&D can be seen as the beginning of a change in the game's nature. That is an interesting viewpoint, whether one agrees or not. And the opinion, absent the tone, is something very close to Knockspell's goal - which is to put the re-imagining of one's personal AD&D into the hands of each individual gaming table, fostering house-ruling and re-thinking of the specifics, rather than having them pre-determined by someone other than the players. If Mr. Kask's article is read in that light, behind the tone, I think the fact that he's advocating player-based creativity rather than publisher-based creativity, is actually a sentiment virtually all of us would agree upon. To my mind, rules are the springboard for imagination, and it's dangerous to one's game if you see them as restrictions instead of inspirations. (This wouldn't be a valid point for games that are more head-to-head on the spectrum - parameters are vital to a more head-t-head game).

taichara said...

@Matt Finch:

Just to kick off my response, I cannot help but find it interesting that you focused on 3e for the first extensive paragraph of your comment. I cannot quite articulate why, but I do find it rather interesting.

As for the rest; if that was your intent, far be it from me to say that your intent was misguided. As I stated in my initial post, we all have our opinions. But I maintain, and shall continue to maintain, that tone -- in this case, Mr. Kask's tone -- is as important as intent.

Neither I nor anyone should have to deliberately read "behind the tone" -- particularly such a bitter and virulent-seeming tone as Mr. Kask's -- in order to see intent. If nothing else, that manner of writing strikes me as running counter to clearly inviting in new blood. Certainly it is not a particularly welcoming tone to me, and I suspect I am not alone.

First impressions mean everything, and all that.

Badelaire said...

So to sum up...

1974-1976: Halcyon days in which everyone played D&D in a free-flowing exchange of ideas and imagination.

1977+: Draconian implementation of "Advanced" D&D rules completely undermines the creativity of anyone who opens the book, like some sort of dark heretical text. Role-playing games are plunged down a dark and foreboding path where the Book Rules All Thought.

Ok, I'm only being half serious.

I cannot and probably will not ever fathom why "Old Schoolers" feel that games aren't "fun", "creative", or "imaginative" after 19(insert arbitrary year here).

I've found fun, creativity, and imagination in every RPG I've ever played, and where there's been more difficulty in achieving these goals, the problem has almost always been with the GM and other players, not the rules.

But whatever. This argument is growing tiresome not just here but everywhere, especially since it is so D&D-centric. There's probably a thousand published RPGs available, free or otherwise, and many "light" RPGs do exactly what Kask and others are talking about, and yet were not written between 1974 and 1976. Hell, FUDGE is all about "imagining the hell out of it" as per Swords & Wizardry - even more so, as you build the system to meet your exact needs - but I'm sure no one is going to even give it a second thought.

I dunno, I give up.

Matt Finch said...

Well, as I said, I view Knockspell as a hobbyist rag, not as a commercial publication. :)

As to 3e, I focus on it only because I think it's the point at which a head to head gaming style for D&D became a coherent model for the game design, that's all. 2e was transitional in that particular spectrum of change. And I just can't speak very well to 4e because I haven't played it enough. What I saw was basically the same tendency toward the parameter-based head to head game, but with different methods and focus-points than in 3e. The actual relationship of the wargame to an unstructured exploration game seems actually to be a return toward the older systems - it's just that the wargame itself is way more complex and structured.

taichara said...

@Matt Finch:

To each their own, I suppose. I started with 2e and still run/play 2e, and I can't say that I encountered the manner of "hand to head" gaming style you describe. Perhaps the groups I have been in and have run for have been different that way.

3e did add more maths and bits and snips, at the least; a leading reason why I went back to 2e and BEMCI.

Still and all, my prior statement stands.

Badelaire said...

Right - a detailed set of rules, in my mind does not equal in any measure "Adversarial" gameplay. That so amny people don't agree is a mystery to me.

Matt Finch said...

@ Badelaire

You're looking at what I'm saying in reverse. I'm saying a ruleset with parameters is BETTER for a head to head game, not that it evidences one. If you're going to play a more head to head game (which, again, I see as totally valid - it's just not my bag for D&D specifically), then you need those parameters.

By the way, if anyone wants to write a letter to the editor on this topic, I'd love to get one. You can email it to me at mythmere at yahoo doot com. Most likely, my actual answer will be along the lines of "it's not a commercial magazine, it's a hobbyist magazine, blah, blah, blah," but it will get the reasoned response to Mr. Kask put into print, which I think is a very appropriate thing to do.

Obviously, if the letter is an edition war type of thing I won't put it in - whether one sees Mr. Kask's post as an edition war flame, it was in the magazine for a different reason, which was to spark thoughts about gamers as rule-creators rather than as rule-consumers, which actually isn't edition specific at all, even though Mr. Kask uses AD&D as his whipping boy.

taichara said...

@Matt Finch:

Why would I want to write an "edition war" anything? This is not about editions and was not until others brought the issue in. It was about a perception of players and by extension play style as a percieved enemy, as I read it.

And to be perfectly honest, after being personally attacked here on my own blog (though assuredly not by yourself), I would need to think long and hard about any such thing as a letter to the editor. It was distasteful enough here, as it was; I feel little desire to open myself up to further attack.

Perhaps I may change my mind after some consideration.

Matt Finch said...

Actually, that was a general invitation to write a letter, I wasn't suggesting that you'd start an edition war. I was also addressing the fact that it had been brought up in the thread, and (since it was an invitation to all the comment writers I felt like that needed to be said). That wasn't aimed at you.

taichara said...

@Matt Finch:

Fair enough; and thank ye kind for clarifying for me also.