Merry Christmas to all my readers. I hope these days bring you joy, contentment, allow you to visit family and rekindle relationships with absent friends and make your resolutions for the coming year.
A commentary by the noble Edgewise, a long-time reader and commenter, remarked on the perils of overt negativity and the importance of channeling positive, creative energy. Now that I have aired, in semi-coherent ranting fashion, my problems with Artpunk and what we are NOT about, it is important to formulate what we actually ARE about.
So, in a dream, where I consulted with the spirits of the ancient masters, I was imparted with their wisdom, which I now bring before you in a format comprehensible to mortal men. It doesn’t matter if some or even all of these end up being revised or removed altogether, but it provides some direction. We will iterate as we go along.
0. The resurgence and longevity of the oldschool playstyle is no mere happenstance but an indication that there is something fundamental to its merits which modern TTRPGs largely fail to capture.
1. The greatest DnD is neither a slavish imitation of the past nor a wholesale rejection thereof (conscious or unconscious), but a continuation of that old craft, with syncretic improvements from other areas.
2. DnD is at its core about the emulation of fantastical adventures and expeditions in the spirit of the Appendix N. Deviation from that spirit is possible but if one strays too far something essential is lost.
3. DnD is, at its core, an Activity. This does not preclude a host of other things (e.g. subject of theoretical discussion, vehicle for creative endaevour, personal hellscape, lucrative side-hustle) but as in all things, Actually Playing the game is its purest expression.
4. Playing good (that is to say, entertaining, challenging, rewarding, fascinating) DnD and making good adventures is primarily a craft, which relies on knowledge and experience, and secondarily a factor of innate ability.
5. DnD is primarily a game to challenge the players. However, great DnD is also about exploration, and so incorporates elements of wonder, horror or whimsy against a versimilitudinous (?) backdrop. It is rooted in the real but contains the fantastic.
6. A good adventure is neither about pure system mastery nor abstract challenge resolution, but incorporates a variety of challenges (lateral, tactical, logistical, social, strategic) which tend to allow a variety of approaches. The answer is not always on your character sheet.
7. DnD play-skill grows as characters gain in levels and good adventure takes that growth into consideration. A level 20 wizard played by a new player is not the same as one that has incorporated every spell and magic item into his routine and knows how to use them.
8. DnD is at its finest when it is open-ended and allows for player decision-making; Maps, Sandboxes, Strategic options, side-quests, factions to ally with etc. etc.
9. DnD is more about mastering your environment then character building. You take what is given and put it to use. This does not preclude logistical challenges.
10. Standard practice is standard for a reason. It is possible to break with procedure, but consider the change in terms of trade-offs, not as the fruits of your brilliant auteur imparting his wisdom on DnD.
As far as 10 commandments go, I think this shall do.
Update: And lest I forget.
11. Art, Layout and Aesthethic Shall Be in Service to the craft of adventure writing, not an end unto itself.
12. DnD is a pasttime and place of solace from the evils of the world. Woe unto him who brings politics unto the gaming table, or by gaming seeks to further his political end.
UPDATE: I have consigned my previous essay to oblivion. This moment has the sense of history about it. Let us not sully it with evil words and old grudges. The poison has been expelled. The New Dawn beckons. Let us sing the Saeta!
UPDATE: And just in time, No-Artpunk made it to Silver bestseller. A belated Christmas miracle. Thank you all. If you are a visitor, you can download it for PWYW, with the proceeds going to the Autism Research Institute.
Merry Christmas to all my readers. I hope these days bring you joy, contentment, allow you to visit family and rekindle relationships with absent friends and make your resolutions for the coming year.
110 thoughts on “On No-Artpunk”
Happy Christmas and thanks for this year!
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I like this. In some ways, it is a restatement of Finch’s Quick Primer but you have added elements in response to changes within the scene in the past 15 years.
I read this as a “no 5e” as much as a “no artpunk” creed. If artpunk is the internal threat to the OSR, 5e is the external threat. 5e does bring players to the OSR, but the popularity of dreck like Critical Role and the influence of WotC adventures is shaping how RPGs are viewed by the masses. It is no longer a game, but an experience.
Artpunk is a problem- do not get me wrong- but good works have come out of it. Deep Carbon Observatory and The Stygian Library come to mind and adhere to the tenets you listed; not everything is a Blue Medusa. On the other hand, WotC has yet to produce an actual adventure (as opposed to an interactive novel) that is not a reprint of past adventures.
Focusing on artpunk is wise though, as they generally speak the same language as us- the OSR is a foreign language to many 5e fans. My guess the lesser (not internet famous) artpunkmen are actually capable of writing adventures, unlike most 5e fans. Good things can come from this!
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Its true. I think it is superior because it is, unlike the previous essay, a statement of intent.
As my reviews hopefully illustrate, there is absolutely some good Artpunk out there. But the majority…nah.
In fairness, the majority of anything is mediocre.
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Sturgeon’s Law: “90% of everything is crap.”
Sad but true.
I like the pronouncements too. There will be ample discussion to iron out the finer points of interpretation and such, but for now they are a very fine starting point.
I also like the “vanishing” of the previous post. There can be a tremendous difference in the way one communicates the intentions and goals of a cause… or rather the difference in “fighting AGAINST” something vs. “fighting FOR” something.
If someone fights against something… for the better or worse he/she is bound to that old thing and ,at least partly, defines everything that follows by whatever it was one fights against. In a very real sense you give “the Enemy” power by fighting against him.
Fighting for something on the other hand binds you to your goals and ideals, while leaving behind the bad baggage.
I’m of course realist enough to know, that this disticntion is mostly academical… and the fight’ll happen one way or the other…. still I think it’s important to really know where one stands 🙂
OH… and merry christmas to you all
This list of pronouncements (I’d hesitate to call them “commandments”) is pretty good. I’ve read through them twice and I can’t find myself disagreeing in any fundamental way with anything here. Even the specific semantics/wording is good, forestalling most quibbles that might spring knee-jerkly to mind with only a cursory perusal. I can see some individuals, weened on late edition D&D, having issues with #6, #8, and #9 (respectively: 4E, 2E, and 3E/5E) and even #5 can be a bitter pill to certain factions of the OD&D/gonzo/kitchen sink crowd, but I am good with it all…that is, none of it sets off any of MY alarm bells.
I am NOT sure it goes far enough in terms of concrete definitions or “rules” for would-be crusaders (for example “standard practice” is presumed, rather than defined), but as a beginning paradigm, I think this works well enough as a foundation for design philosophy.
Merry Christmas, Prince.
Merry Christmas Mr. Becker. You give wise advice. I’ll take it as a good omen that these commandments 10 have met with the approval of a cantankerous old grog such as yourself.
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Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.
Merry Christmas all.
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[A fine start!]
Ah, how my heart sings! The only thing left is to name this movement. Sadly, marketing is crucial to the spread of even the most worthy ideas.
Let’s delve into these, point-by-point.
[0. The resurgence and longevity of the oldschool playstyle is no mere happenstance but an indication that there is something fundamental to its merits which modern TTRPGs largely fail to capture.]
An excellent mission statement.
[1. The greatest DnD is neither a slavish imitation of the past nor a wholesale rejection thereof (conscious or unconscious), but a continuation of that old craft, with syncretic improvements from other areas.]
Bravo! Well-said! Nothing to add here.
[2. DnD is at its core about the emulation of fantastical adventures and expeditions in the spirit of the Appendix N. Deviation from that spirit is possible but if one strays too far something essential is lost.]
Now, this is very interesting. I think this point bears much deeper examination. Specifically, what is it about Appendix N (I prefer to call it “pulp S&S,” but AppN works as well) that is so animating to the hobby?
Also, I think that is bears mentioning that there is a fine distinction between genre inspiration and genre emulation. There’s something about games with certain overt genre mechanics that sets my teeth on edge. Is that just me? There’s a fine line.
And how does this concept apply when we venture beyond DnD/fantasy? Is there a core concept here that goes beyond the specific genre and lineage of D&D?
[3. DnD is, at its core, an Activity. This does not preclude a host of other things (e.g. subject of theoretical discussion, vehicle for creative endaevour, personal hellscape, lucrative side-hustle) but as in all things, Actually Playing the game is its purest expression.]
It seems so obvious, but so many adventures are written to be read and not played, so this has to be said. I’m sure that Bryce is nodding heartily over a stiff bourbon.
[4. Playing good (that is to say, entertaining, challenging, rewarding, fascinating) DnD and making good adventures is primarily a craft, which relies on knowledge and experience, and secondarily a factor of innate ability.]
I sense that you’re avoiding the word “art,” here, although I see the words as interchangeable. Either way, I strongly agree with the sentiment.
[5. DnD is primarily a game to challenge the players. However, great DnD is also about exploration, and so incorporates elements of wonder, horror or whimsy against a versimilitudinous (?) backdrop. It is rooted in the real but contains the fantastic.]
Agreed. Role-playing is unlike any other form of gaming in that there is no score, no victory conditions, and (usually) no competition. But if you eliminate the concept of “challenge,” it ceases to be a game in any sense of the word.
[6. A good adventure is neither about pure system mastery nor abstract challenge resolution, but incorporates a variety of challenges (lateral, tactical, logistical, social, strategic) which tend to allow a variety of approaches. The answer is not always on your character sheet.]
This works primarily as a response to Artpunk as defined by Patrick Stuart. I think this could use a bit more elaboration if it’s to stand on its own. There’s something of the adage here, that “the devil is in the details.” In other words, count your torches.
[7. DnD play-skill grows as characters gain in levels and good adventure takes that growth into consideration. A level 20 wizard played by a new player is not the same as one that has incorporated every spell and magic item into his routine and knows how to use them.]
I feel like you’re talking about the difference between character ability and player ability here, and how they go hand-in-hand. Very true, although I think it’s possible to have a game where developing player skill is more important than developing character skill. Not so much the other way around.
[8. DnD is at its finest when it is open-ended and allows for player decision-making; Maps, Sandboxes, Strategic options, side-quests, factions to ally with etc. etc.]
This combines two ideas I’ve seen bandied about in the OSR community: player agency, and world-in-motion. Perhaps you could even call it player agency and world agency. No railroading, no quantum ogres, etc. It’s well-trodden ground, but that’s for very good reason.
[9. DnD is more about mastering your environment then character building. You take what is given and put it to use. This does not preclude logistical challenges.]
This feels like an elaboration of points 6 and 7. I think you could consolidate these into something a bit more focused.
[10. Standard practice is standard for a reason. It is possible to break with procedure, but consider the change in terms of trade-offs, not as the fruits of your brilliant auteur imparting his wisdom on DnD.]
A reiteration of the importance of tradition. Fine words, but what is “standard practice”? The previous points? I might use a different wording here, because part of what you’re railing against is what has become “standard practice” in recent years. But I totally know what you’re getting at.
SaveByAndrew (in this thread) and ShufflingWombat (in the previous thread) have both rightly flagged the community practices and content of 5e for its many sins. It’s interesting because these feel like three very different poles. You’ve got what I call Airbrushed Fantasy, Pulp Fantasy and Artsy Fantasy. The latter two are reactions to the others, while Airbrushed Fantasy is perpetrated by a community that is almost unaware of anything else. In the grand scheme of things, I think Artpunk and No-Artpunk have a lot more in common with each other than either has with the mainstream.
We have until the new year to come up with a spiffy name. Any aspiring marketing geniuses out there, hit me up.
Hard to formulate. You don’t need to emulate any particular novel or story in the appendix N. But the spirit of it, the adventure, the discovery, the concepts behind so many of the Gygaxian building blocks, I think those need to be at least understood before they are cast aside. How hit points work, what a fighting man is meant to represent, these are important and are often easier to grasp by example or analogy then by principle.
To be sure, elaboration must follow. I think The Answer is not on your Character Sheet is an obvious response to the D20 era character building hell, but it has become fetishized, to the point that any form of system mastery is nervously avoided. Making everything organic or outside context and relying on ultra-light frameworks is as stilted as character-building chop-athons. Old D&D has tactical combat built into its bones and it has the mechanical framework to support it. All those spells, magic items etc. etc. The truth is that in a good game, the answer is very often on your character sheet. The other day I played in a guy’s game, we opened a door, corpse gas wafts forth, zombies. We were down to 3 thieves, one of us was nauseated, shit! So the other two rush forward, and one of them, thinking quickly, uses his Ten Foot Pole to slide between the locks of the double doors. Perfect example. Yes. Yes its on your character sheet. Why do you have all those fucking items in adventuring gear? Why do you have ten thousand fucking spells. Yes it is sometimes on your character sheet. You have to engage with the fucking system you are writing for.
It is my belief the two should be linked in oldschool D&D. The ideal should be that you don’t make it to a higher level until you learn to use the tools at your disposal.
Things like random encounters, dungeon stocking procedures, hex crawling, listening at doors, whatever the fuck. There were ways to do it. If you don’t, great, but why not? I am trying to put into words a difference of approach that will hopefully gain results.
I think so. I am plugged out so I only catch glimpses of 5e but the Discord group I’m at seems to be very frustrated with both the game and the company so there is a disconnect there. It’s probably true two species of OSR share much more DNA then 5e players.
Gotta say, I don’t mind this revision at all. The last essay seemed accurate to me, but did linger too long on negative definitions. Love to see you reworking this in response to commentary.
I hope it isn’t too wishful to say it seems the dialogue is converging towards a kind of ‘middle way’ here at Age of Dusk. I look forward to more.
One of life’s great superpowers is to recognize and escape sinkholes of negativity. I think I owe you a 5e review, I have not forgotten.
Middle ground. Hah!
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I suggested “Neoclassical D&D” a couple months ago as a title to represent the next phase beyond the old-school renaissance and although it didn’t gain any traction at the time I still think it’s pretty good both in terms of the actual principles bring espoused (guided by and grounded in classic modes, aesthetics and techniques but without being dogmatically reactionary and backwards-looking) and in the echo of the historical relationship between the Renaissance and neoclassical periods so I’m throwing it back into the ring for consideration.
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“Neoclassical D&D”… Oh, I do like the sound of that. In the past, I’ve seen “Lake Geneva Renaissance” and “Old School Enlightenment,” but the former is perhaps too backwards-looking and the latter is just as ambiguous as “OSR” concerning its relationship to old-school D&D specifically (which has caused no end of problems for the movement).
Now if only there were a way to give the concept a catchy abbreviation, because “NCD&D” ain’t it. This will take some pondering.
Hah. Maybe a little… too on the nose?
I keep turning this over in my mind, trying to find something marketable that nonetheless speaks to mechanical and tonal fidelity to TSR D&D without sounding too slavish or closed-minded about it. One problem is that “D&D” (in addition to being a trademark owned by a corporation that doubtless isn’t too keen on old-school gaming) is already a mouthful, so modifying it in any way just makes it more of a mouthful. But on the other hand… what if we took a handful of trademarks that are universally regarded as synonymous with old-school D&D (and quite the opposite of hostile to the kind of high-fidelity-to-D&D old-school play I’m referring to)?
We could call it “OSL+” — short for “OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, etc.” It’s four syllables instead of three, but still punchy, still clearly akin to “OSR,” and it drives home that at least one cornerstone of playing old-school D&D is using the old-school D&D mechanics (and not just some aesthetic or a set of free-floating old-school “principles”).
Isn’t Zzarchov Kowolski’s homegame rules Neoclassical Greek Renaissance? Could do far far worse than Kowolski as a movement exemplar, but seems like a bit of a different style.
You are correct, and I thought it was Geek Revival? Kowolski is a distinctly modern Author, a great one, but a modern one.
Where did the original post go? Did the catgirl stormtroopers zero in on Prince HQ and commence shelling? Did the Final Boss of Internet Shitlords threaten he’d expose this place in a fiery Youtube video? Deus-not-so-vult?
None of that. There is a way to this war, and that essay, while true, is not the way.
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While I share most sentiments with the fellow commenters and laud your efforts putting it out there, let me cut to the chase to two objections, that I have:
1) These “10 Rules” are as prone to be misunderstood by DnD haters as all previous primers. Especially in cultures that do not fully grasp the imaginary counter-point in the form of Artpunk or 5e will make your hair gray. Maybe it is worthwhile to check each rule for its generality. Culture of play I like very much in that regard!
2) Appendix N: Now there is a problem with the literary approach. It is limiting.
There is also an unwritten Appendix Q that is about all the games & activities played in the twin cities and Lake Geneva groups that informed the general practice of DMing and approach to constructing scenarios. In a way, some of your other points are results of this “hidden” cultural substrate. Also, it is not necessary to mirror Garys literary influences. He already explored those! Bring in your own influences express & model them, I would say is a healthy and worthwhile way to go. But I can see your point regarding trying to do your own stuff with Appendix N derived mindests will lead to jarring moments. The whole 2e era is about these moments, I gues…
Still, Appendix Q seems to be more important to me.
1) That’s perfect. They are not for others, they are for us.
2) I said spirit, not letter. I heartily agree that people should bring in their own influences. But! as you point out, 2e is so interesting because it more or less illustrates that deviating too far from the founding principles of the game doesn’t quite work unless further rules are introduced, until the whole is a different animal. I use the word spirit because it is indeed a feel, the sense of adventure, of expeditions, of danger, of swordplay and evil sorcery. Integrate your own influences into the whole, don’t throw everything out and try to force DnD something that it is not.
Appendix Q deserves further examination, I agree.
I think actually you CAN bring politics into D&D. But it has to be in keeping with the other points.
Joel Rosenberg was a somewhat-right wing American Jewish fantasy/sci-fi author. His most famous series is probably the Guardians of the Flame, which starts out as “RPG-playing college students get transported to their gaming world.” They get stuck there, for complicated reasons – and one of them decides he hates slavery and the Slaver’s Guild and is going to annihilate it. And they do. It’s a lot of fun, and I’d actually recommend reading it if you can find it – it’s got some very neat bits, and establishes rather clearly that an RPG universe would not actually be that pleasant a place. And has some really good lines.
There’s an interesting place for politics in “what about the gnoll women and children” and “what do we do with prisoners” and things like that. Equally, there’s a lot of overlap between many critiques of D&D’s perceived biases and critiques of lazy writing and worldbuilding. Nor do I think a player would be wrong or out-of-keeping with the spirit of the game for saying “I don’t want to kill those orcs just to take their stuff if they’re minding their own business” (nor would a player be wrong for doing so, though I think having him be unambiguously heroic might be iffier). And that certainly is a political decision.
All kinds of thing and many aspects of life are political, and those things do not necessarily have no place in D&D. I am having a hard time articulating where the line is – there definitely is one, but I don’t think that rule captures it properly.
That’s sort of true. I think you are articulating that you can use an RPG to explore a real world issue or idea. I think that kind of works. Maybe the boundary is at the point you are proselytizing? There is a boundary issue between events within the fictional world and issues relating to real individuals?
I think you definitely can use RPGs for such.
It depends on the example. I certainly find all the brouhaha re Orcs and Dark Elves to be mostly ridiculous, but I have a hard time seeing how that would express itself in-game. Wheelchair accessible dungeons are dumb, but that’s not as pervasive an issue as I think people claim.
So many things boil down to knowing them when you see them, and I think this may be one of them.
Of course. This is a nuanced issue and indivisual gaming groups have to work out their own solutions. This is best done with one’s own friends – after all, we took time out of our day to get together and play, right?
But in the larger dialogue amongst people in the scene, we all know how this works by now. Saying ‘no politics’ is the minimum defensive maneuver.
Thus, anyone who speaks positively about bringing politics into D&D has a lot of work ahead to prove that they aren’t a rat or a useful idiot.
But one person’s ‘no politics’ is not the same as another’s, and pretending to be adventurers-of-fortune IS expressing the view that such is fit subject for entertainment. I don’t consider deep and lengthy analysis of “BUT ISN’T IT ALL COLONIALIST AND IMPERIALIST” to be particularly insightful or interesting beyond the observation (human history consists heavily of us killing each other and taking each other’s stuff across all continents, creeds, and colours). But that observation is not inaccurate, and there is some discussion to be had around how one can game such scenarios in ways that are not unfortunate.
For example, whether the gnolls have women and children and what to do about them is, to some extent, a political conversation. Same thing with surrendering prisoners etc. Or the question of why the PCs are here looting from these people. And refusing to talk about those questions IS taking a political stance (and a rather cowardly one at that, IMO – intentionally pretending the problem doesn’t exist when playing the game is a valid stance, but refusing to discuss it at all is not). These are large enough issues I think the hobby should be able to discuss what are and aren’t appropriate methods of dealing with them.
That said, I concur that most things are best sorted out on a local level. At the same time, a broader discussion of the issues that come up locally may not be inappropriate.
The term rat and useful idiot are confusing. What do you mean?
I think that you can definitely inject politics into gaming, and it may even be unavoidable to a certain extent. However, I think that an entire movement should not be defined by a specific set of political attitudes. That’s just way too limiting and even alienating. Politics in gaming works better on the local level i.e. individual adventures, and one’s own play circle. Even in those cases, heavy-handedness is generally tiresome at best.
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I mean, it’s littered with politics and political assumptions. We just implicitly accept or agree with a ton of them. Anyone playing D&D is implicitly accepting a lot of stuff about feudalism as being OK to go along with for the purposes of a game. Which is FINE, but pretending it’s not happening doesn’t make it so.
I very much concur re it not being defined by a specific set of attitudes. There needs to be scope for a wide variety of views on things. At the same time, there are some universal problems that come out of the rulesets that need to be discussed (I keep coming back to “what do you do with the children” but it’s a good question and one that I don’t think can be passed off onto the worldbuilder in the same way as “why are Orcs evil”).
(To be clear, my answer for the question is “anything from slaughtering them, selling them into slavery, adopting them, finding a friendly tribe of their species or culture to foster them, or just handwaving it and having the PCs only fight groups who conveniently lack civilians despite that being inauthentic. It’s a game. But you need to think about it briefly. And probably should avoid the first two options if possible.”)
“I mean, it’s littered with politics and political assumptions. We just implicitly accept or agree with a ton of them. Anyone playing D&D is implicitly accepting a lot of stuff about feudalism as being OK to go along with for the purposes of a game. Which is FINE, but pretending it’s not happening doesn’t make it so.”
Is it? You play characters that are free-booters, not kingsmen. It assumes a medieval backdrop, but only very implicitly, with tonnes of anachronisms, and it makes no statement regarding the desirability or undesirability of such. This is my problem with a lot of these arguments. Lots of reaching.
” At the same time, there are some universal problems that come out of the rulesets that need to be discussed (I keep coming back to “what do you do with the children” but it’s a good question and one that I don’t think can be passed off onto the worldbuilder in the same way as “why are Orcs evil”).”
Why is this something that must be decided on a community-wide basis? This is something for each group to decide. If the GM figures that probably his group would object to it ( e.g. I have a woman with a newborn in my gaming group for example, so humanoid/human slaughter yes obviously, but no violence vs children) then don’t do it.
But this simple resolution is blown up into a community wide problem. Then if you examine the people making the initial argument, you discover that very often they don’t actually play that much DnD, or at all, and that they don’t like it, don’t like the player culture, don’t like the books it is based on, don’t like gaming in general. And yet their ire, which could be directed at a million other worthwhile endaevours, is turned unto DnD, which they want to remake instead of playing one of a thousand games that is geared towards their tastes. The processes currently working on DnD are not good faith attempts at resolving internal disputes, and they are not resolved through logical inquiry and discussion, they are wars for control.
I should point out, and I think Edgewise read into it correctly, that I prefaced 12. with this.
“DnD is a pasttime and place of solace from the evils of the world”
So as to indicate my motivation.
“I mean, it’s littered with politics and political assumptions. We just implicitly accept or agree with a ton of them.”
Yes, that’s absolutely true. I was thinking much the same thing. We always drag around our political and ethical assumptions, even (or especially) when we’re subverting them i.e. reification through contradiction. As you say, I think it’s good to be aware of this, and even engage with it a little. But I don’t know if purposeful engagement should be part of this movement that Prince is trying to create. I think it’s a natural byproduct of thoughtful gamers, and probably best avoided by jerks and morons.
“Then if you examine the people making the initial argument, you discover that very often they don’t actually play that much DnD, or at all, and that they don’t like it, don’t like the player culture, don’t like the books it is based on, don’t like gaming in general. And yet their ire, which could be directed at a million other worthwhile endaevours, is turned unto DnD, which they want to remake instead of playing one of a thousand games that is geared towards their tastes. The processes currently working on DnD are not good faith attempts at resolving internal disputes, and they are not resolved through logical inquiry and discussion, they are wars for control.”
So you already know what I mean. These people are rats.
The term ‘useful idiot’ is from the former USSR. It describes someone who believes the Party’s propaganda and contributes to the cause, despite not being a member of the Party or even fully comprehending the goals they are working towards. They are cast aside when their use is at an end. I included this because not everyone who brings up colonialism or other types of politics in gaming is actually trying to destroy the scene from within – many are motivated by a genuine desire to do good – unfortunately, the effect is exactly the same regardless. As long as *some* people are using the conversation as a way to remake the scene in their image, if we want to have nice things we simply have no other choice but to push back against the topic in public every single time it comes up.
Excluded middles are bad shit. The idea that well-meaning people espousing reasonable ideas must be pushed back against, suppressed, and driven away because there are other people pushing those same ideas with cynical motives is destructive and counter-productive. There absolutely is some stuff in those 40+ year old D&D books that is sexist and racist and culturally insensitive and embarrassing by contemporary standards. Better to acknowledge and address that than to retreat into a purely reactionary stance of denial or defiance. One of the benefits of creating new stuff in the OSR space rather than just endlessly dissecting 40+ year old texts is that we can jettison some of that unsavory stuff while preserving and carrying forward the good parts – we can prove that female strength limits and racist-coded language around half-orcs and “Oriental Adventures”-style shallow exoticism and unquestioned colonialist narratives and so forth are not central or defining traits of the old editions and that you don’t need to embrace (or even just implicitly accept) them to play in the original mode. Acknowledging that stuff as bad and outdated is not a slippery slope or a camel’s nose under the tent or whatever other divisive, reductionist analogy. Sophisticated adult minds can handle this level of cognitive complexity.
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Trent, nothing you said there is incorrect.
Yet it changes nothing. Culture war is neither fair, nor fun, but it is frighteningly effective. Acting as if everyone else is behaving in good faith will not move the needle much. Once the idea is out there spreading amongst people’s minds, I don’t really care about the individual motives of a particular person, when I know what the consequences will be.
And keep in mind what I’m actually saying: that these ideas need to be pushed back against, not that dialogue must me stamped out altogether. In other words, when people bring up politics in the game, unprompted, we should display a healthy suspicion & present frictions. Sort of like the oft-parodied “name three songs,” but more serious. You may not like it. I know I don’t. But so what? The consequences of failure are grave.
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My likes for comments keep not getting registered. Probably because the site wonders why I am liking so many comments.
Lots of good discussion here. I think the way forward is clear. Discuss politics in gaming with your own circle and group, not in the broader community. Discuss politics in political forums. It just makes sense.
@Trent Smith: I think you have some good points about moving past the hoary old clichés and stereotypes. But I think that’s best done in practice, simply by not carrying them forward, rather than talking endlessly about them. The latter leads to all sorts of angry community arguments and schisms. Internet communities don’t communicate nuance very well, and people discussing things through forums rarely apply benefit of the doubt correctly, either when deserved or not.
Personally, I’d rather just avoid the endless navel gazing and get on with the gaming. If a particular content creator is generating toxic material that is genuinely polluting the community, then it MIGHT be worth engaging with. There are always exceptions, but they are best taken on a case-by-case basis. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it easy to ignore unpleasant elements in online communities simply by not engaging. If you want to shut something down, the best way is probably to crowd it out and starve it of oxygen. Engagement usually makes things stronger, even if it is counter-engagement. Trying to actively shut something down tends to create battle lines.
I don’t know, it’s really not an easy topic. I’d just say that one should pick one’s political battles in a gaming community VERY carefully. I agree with @TerribleSorcery that such discussions should be met with reflexive suspicion. To me it’s not so much about bad faith as it is a question of what value can realistically be created. Argue politics in a political forum, play games in a gaming community. With your friends, do whatever you want.
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I will be the bad cop (or the Hagen von Tronje! he was the good guy, remember! :D) of this discussion, if I must.
Ten years ago, I would have agreed with Trent, because why not be welcoming and reasonable, but in the dark future of 2021, I am more wary about giving that inch. Again and again, it has been proven that accommodating people critical of “D&D’s problematic elements” just creates further openings whereby newer and more radical concessions are being demanded, and more and more people of our scene are blacklisted. It is never enough. Danegeld paid, Danes keep coming back, what are we doing wrong? HALP!
I believe it is becoming more and more important to establish boundaries and stand firm when the demands are coming about remodelling the clubhouse “for the new clientelle”. It is not about Mr. Lovecraft’s peculiarly named cat (and what a cat that was!), but looking twice at the people who would start with the feline, continue with Mr. Lovecraft’s bust, then toss out the furniture and remodel the entire clubhouse in teal. Make it clear that this is *our* place, and we like Mr. Lovecraft’s bust on our mantlepiece, and yes, some people here like to smoke cigars and drink bourbon and swear (although you don’t have to), and no, we are not removing that portrait of Mr. Gygax just because “it bothers you”, because we think he was a cool guy, and no, we do not renounce whatever he wrote about orc babies. Besides, that was just friendly trolling. Also, we don’t believe orcs are blacks, YOU FUCKERS believe that, and shame on you for doing so.
Also furthermore, there is a benefit in a mild inoculation which would push away the most eager and most extreme elements from old-school gaming. Over here, we believe a little cigar smoke is a great disinfectant, Mr. Lovecraft’s bust keeps away evil spirits, and scotch cleanses the soul. What’s it to you? The people who do not like the decor to the extent that they will stay away are not people we should invite over anyway. If they do not like old-school games, and do not like the fiction and implications old-school games are built on, then by God they would not have a good time here, and should not be coming. The Tofu Bar is over there.
Perhaps feudalism isn’t the best example. But there IS an implicit statement regarding the desirability or undesirability of such, I think. Playing slaveowners in the antebellum South would not, I think, be something most players are comfortable with. Or historically realistic Spartans. Or Nazis. Etc. We are implicitly saying that the subject matter of a game of D&D is not as bad as that, that it is something that can be and is fun. And I think that is an EXTREMELY defensible position (I mean, unless you behave as one of the aforementioned groups did in your D&D games. But it’s certainly not required or even useful to do so).
I don’t think a lot of these issues need to be DECIDED on a community-wide basis. But they are fit subjects for discussion on such a basis, and I think more heed should be paid to such things. If D&D is intellectually and morally defensible (and it is), it deserves to actually be defended. If not, those aspects of it that aren’t need to change.
Everything always leads to further demands. It is the nature of the world – demands are acceded to, become background, and then suddenly people have new demands. It may, of course, be a different group of people, which is important to remember.
Establishing boundaries and standing firm is fine. But you do not do that by removing politics and political discussions. Indeed, doing so is the exact opposite – you make yourself a safe haven for the unacceptable, which makes the people opposing you RIGHT. And that is not a good look.
And Gygax’s “nits make lice” comment is not, in fact, defensible. Or, at least, not defensible in the way most people play the game. To be fair to him, he is saying that in the context of a fantasy world, which is a nasty and brutal place, you can commit genocide and still be lawful good. That is a more nuanced position than the mere quote would suggest. But he is wrong. He is especially wrong to be repeating it in a primarily American context. Because referring to fairly recent genocide to justify behaviour as good in your fantasy roleplaying game is disgusting (referring to it as a principle that has unfortunately been prevalent throughout history be much less so). Child-killing, even pretend child-killing, is a subject to be approached more carefully than he does. That he did not seem to appreciate that is concerning. It’s also notable that later on in the thread where he seems to have most recently made the comment, he approves of simply avoiding the issue as an “astute” method of dealing with it.
Of course, later in the same thread he comments this: “The non-combatants in a humanoid group might be judged as worthy of death by a LG opponent force and executed or taken as prisoners to be converted to the correct way of thinking and behaving. A NG opponent would likely admonish them to change their ways before freeing them. A CG force might enslave them so as to correct their ways or else do as the NG party did. CN and LN opponents would likely slaughter the lot. Evil opponents would enlist, enslave, or execute them according to the nature of the Evil victors and that of the survivors. Enlistment would be for those of like alignment, slaughter for those opposite the victors’ predisposition to order or disorder. Enslavement is an option for any sort of Evil desiring workers.”
So per Gygax, killing your prisoners appears to be morally superior to enslaving them. Riiiiiight.
Anyway, I admittedly am not familiar with every work in Appendix N. But I believe the number of heroes in Appendix N who do that sort of thing is pretty small – certainly the number who are explicitly shown doing so is vanishingly so. The number who could be characterized as lawful good and do that sort of thing is even smaller. The issue is usually glossed over, because heroes don’t commit genocide. Historical figures do. D&D is a combination of historical influences with fantastic ones, and given it tends to use history to fill the gaps in fantasy, this needs some discussion. It is too easy for people to approach these subjects in thoughtless ways. And they do deserve some thought. Wider discussion benefits that. I am not suggesting the community discusses this to find a One True Way to deal with the issue. But it is not an issue that everyone should be sorting out on their own, either. As much as anything else, public discussion serves as a way to make it clear this is something that needs to be considered, and which there are implications to.
Responding to a very intelligent post by @Simulated Knave…
“Everything always leads to further demands. It is the nature of the world – demands are acceded to, become background, and then suddenly people have new demands. It may, of course, be a different group of people, which is important to remember.”
I think this is a good and important point. Presumption of bad faith is one of the biggest problems with discussions on the internet. The cancel culture that @Melan reasonably rails against is basically centered on that posture. Fighting fire with fire online just ends up burning down the house. Unless someone demonstrates obvious bad faith, I always assume otherwise. That doesn’t mean that we have to entertain endless complaints…
“Establishing boundaries and standing firm is fine. But you do not do that by removing politics and political discussions. Indeed, doing so is the exact opposite – you make yourself a safe haven for the unacceptable, which makes the people opposing you RIGHT. And that is not a good look.”
It all makes sense, but what I worry about is where it all ends. Talking about politics is an actual real-deal slippery slope. Especially when you consider the way online communities endlessly ruminate on even the most minute topic.
It’s really not easy to know where to draw the line. I agree that some things are outside the Overton Window, so to speak, and warrant confrontation lest they poison a community. But the problem is that everyone’s window is different, and everyone has their own hot buttons. While I certainly agree with the concept that political and ethical assumptions are indivisible from, well, everything, I think that in practical terms, we all have a concept of “politics” which is somewhat separate from the quotidian.
For that reason, I advocate a “no politics” stance in general. There will always be reasonable exceptions, and I think these can emerge from consensus when you start with the baseline that people in the community really don’t want to get into that shit.
“Of course, later in the same thread he comments this: “The non-combatants in a humanoid group might be judged as worthy of death by a LG opponent force and executed or taken as prisoners to be converted to the correct way of thinking and behaving. A NG opponent would likely admonish them to change their ways before freeing them. A CG force might enslave them so as to correct their ways or else do as the NG party did. CN and LN opponents would likely slaughter the lot. Evil opponents would enlist, enslave, or execute them according to the nature of the Evil victors and that of the survivors. Enlistment would be for those of like alignment, slaughter for those opposite the victors’ predisposition to order or disorder. Enslavement is an option for any sort of Evil desiring workers.””
Well, that’s pretty cringey, to put it mildly. I’d raise a bushy eyebrow at that if posted online, and say maybe you should keep your weird fucking ideas to yourself. If I was in his gaming group, it would warrant a deeper discussion.
My main problem with this goes to the use of the word “good.” It was always a mistake to stray from the three-fold alignment system to the nine-fold grid. If a Lawful Asshole crusader wants to kill or enslave a bunch of orc babies, I can deal with that, because there’s no judgement of it as “good.” Casually talking about genocide and slavery while labeling them as morally laudable is not a good look, to say the least.
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Flattery will get you everywhere, Edgewise.
You are very correct that we should not entertain endless complaints. But if we don’t EVER have the debate, there’s no response to it. Nor does it allow the community to ever draw lines and say “actually, FATAL/TNG’s Code of Honor are not OK.” I cannot think of similar examples in published modules, but I’m sure there are some.
I’d propose something like “D&D is not a venue for solving political problems in the larger world, nor should it be treated as one.” I think that leaves plenty of scope for disagreement, still also allows room for discussion, and also makes it clear that we do not think having intrinsically evil Orcs makes you racist all by itself. In an ideal world it would also include something about “It is also not a place to intentionally perpetuate them” but that leaves the door open to a lot of debate that I *do* think could well be in bad faith.
The practical concern, for me, is that almost everything people object to in D&D IS defensible based on historical or objective fact. And as long as the people involved are conscious of those facts and that it’s a game, it’s fine. Trying to bypass that discussion surrenders the debate to the loonies.
Re good…I think Gygax is more-or-less right that a fantasy world’s view of good COULD allow that. Much like the past, Greyhawk is another country and they do things differently there. I think I would also be a LOT more comfortable with it if he’d ever, at any point, said “to be clear, fantasy good and modern good are not actually the same thing.” There are hints pointing that way, but…not as much as I’d like.
If you keep the ninefold alignment grid at this stage, I think you have to explain clearly what each alignment is, with examples. Especially including how they handle prisoners. And then also make it clear that this world is not the game world, and in real life it is not actually acceptable to slaughter people’s parents and then adopt the children (which was a pretty common ancient solution to the problem). And given the recency of some similar examples of that in history, I would understand if people preferred to just not have the issue come up.
I spent too much of last night thinking of examples. I shall have to write something at some point.
@Simulated Knave: Sir, I am afraid you are dissecting a troll, and it just keeps regenerating on you. If you had hung around EGG’s ENWorld / Dragonsfoot Q&A threads, you would *know*, but I suspect you hadn’t, and you don’t. The proper context of so much of that tableside wisdom is Gary shooting the shit with his online pals next to a pack of camels and a glass of scotch, and giving outrageous responses to anyone who took banter too seriously. That was very much his thing, and that’s why it is not an issue worth getting in a tizzy about.* Next up, femaled dwarves and their generous beards.
The serious side is that, through his long gaming career, Gary had consistently dismissed drawing any sort of socio-economic implication or deeper meaning from his role-playing games (recall his long rants against “amateur thespians”), and that’s as solid a statement of intent as any. The thing people read into D&D is just not there. California Nu-Age Stoner Greg Stafford would have given you the orc’s myths, his way of life, and his deep-seated beliefs; but Gary would be rolling his initiative and ponder his stratagems in the dungeon environment. This is not the only way to think of orcs, and it is not even mine**, but it is demonstrably his, and it is true to the idea of treating D&D as a casual game instead of story simulator.
* Indeed, the Internet was a much better place when we didn’t.
** We always played them as potbellied, lowly brigands, capable of harm when roused but fundamentally too lazy and undisciplined to be a serious menace. And we loved our half-orc anti-heroes more than the beautiful people.
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All these fucking essays FUCK! I have Xenophon’s shitty sequel to the Peloponesian war to get through. Alright here goes.
Again, I have immense trouble even glimpsing the problem. There are a million wargames where you can pick the Nazi side, or video games where you can play violent, drug-abusing criminals. Yet, seemingly miraculously, these have not spawned legions of nazi supersoldiers, or murderers, or hardcore criminals. Indeed, DnD is much less edgy then anything brought out by White Wolf in the 90s. This insistence that every element of culture be made compliant with a constantly mutable consensus morality enforced by corporate media and based on social sciences of dubious replicability is a brain-worm. ‘Everything is political,’ is the statement of a fanatic.
I think we should observe the gentrification and immense damage that has taken place in every fandom that has heeded these pied pipers and learn from it. No, we should pay LESS heed to these discussions, and regard closely the behavior of people that dwell very long on them.
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If Gygax is trolling for giggles, it’s not very funny. In a literal sense – it’s not clever enough to be interesting trolling. And, frankly, the idea that D&D is a casual game that no one puts tons of thought into is not particularly compatible with how D&D developed OR with a ton of the stuff Gygax himself wrote for it or the directions TSR went. Or with Gygax doing a lengthy Q&A thread where he answers questions, for that matter. Also, he sounds pretty damn serious about it, and sounds pretty serious throughout most of that thread.
Also, “it’s OK, his genocide references are just him intentionally winding people up” is…not exactly an ideal defense.
It is not the statement of a fanatic. It is the statement of a slightly depressed realist. Trust me. There are political implications to everything. That doesn’t mean they always MATTER, but they’re there, and pretending they’re not is dumb.
There are a million wargames where you can pick the Nazi side. There are far fewer where you can enact the final solution. And one of the GTA games notably got a LOT of pushback for the rather disgusting torture sequence (though not as much as I think it probably deserved). I am not suggesting that all aspects of D&D need to be sanitized and politically correct. But I think claiming “no politics” does nothing to fend off those who do want to take things in that direction (as I have mentioned, I think it makes it look like we have no counterarguments), while it DOES eliminate the possiblity of getting rid of things that are genuinely problematic.
Gygax’s “nits make lice” comment is not worth defending, frankly. Trying to do so, especially on the basis of “oh, he was just trolling” makes people look stupid at best. Frankly, all that needs to be said is “yup, tactless at best, child killing is something best avoided when playing any game.” The followup “do you not then denounce all his works?” can be responded to with a simple “no.” Because saying a stupid thing does not make everything he has ever said invalid.
It is also notable that by the standards of the works D&D draws on his answer is also wrong. Even if you leave morality out of it, it is a bad answer. Good heroes don’t kill children just because they may grow up to be bad people.
Saying “there needs to be some room for discussion of some political implications of things” is not the same thing as “we must surrender immediately to all claims anyone makes about anything they say is problematic in D&D.”
Also, how dare you, Xenophon is delightful. Have you tried the Landmark editions of such things? I just got the Landmark Anabasis, and regret not yet having opportunity to dig into it.
[“Everything is political” Statement of a fantatic]
Yes it is. The problem is not that you cannot view everything through a political ‘lens’, the problem is that objects are viewed through this ‘lens’ and this ‘lens’ alone, and any context is ignored. Subjecting every single facet of existence to an examination of compliance with a constantly mutable political standard and training the brain to actively look for divergence creates Inquisitors, not philosophers. You are arguing from some abstract philosophical assumption. Look at reality. Look at cancel culture. Look at what has happened with discourse here and elsewhere. These are the fruits of this theory.
Au contraire, I think it would be very effective at keeping people out at the gate, if only via self-selection. This idea of ‘debate’ and ‘counterargument’ gives the idea that these are valid issues to discuss, instead of mostly ridiculous bad-faith nonsense meant to gain control and influence. The opposition doesn’t even believe that discussing ideas is worthwhile, otherwise they wouldn’t deplatform and censor and make debate over these very issues impossible (which they do, despite talking about ‘dialog’ all the time, disagreeing with them is actually perceived as evil). There is absolutely no reason to indulge in this sort of stuff in the current climate. When everything has simmered down, then you can begin re-examination.
Your counter-arguments are very weak. You point at a few isolated incidents where it goes too far (single torture scene gets some pushback, whereas you commit crimes/manslaughter constantly), or create a theoretical extreme that doesn’t take place (there is no holocaust simulation game). I say again, there are plenty of 4X games where you genocide imaginary aliens or even humans. Is that not allowed? Do we need a disclaimer that says skeletons are people too? How long are you going to indulge in this stupidity and pretend it has any substance to it?
If there was some sort of option like Orc Plantation Manager Domain Play or there was Barbed wire, Zyklon-B and fucking Railway tracks on the equipment list, then, maybe then I’d say, yeah, on second thought maybe that goes a little far, maybe there is a clear historical parallel. But the goal posts keep moving and concessions are not helping. Instead slowly, inch by inch, the soul of DnD is ripped out, gentrified and replaced with nothing.
First of all, that was Melan, not me. Second, I’ll heartily defend it now. An edgy joke. So what? Are you losing sleep? Is some DnD player pensively eyeing jackboots and a red armband even now because of a single comment?
[There needs to be room]
You still haven’t made a good case for why that should be the case, and why it should not be handled individually or by group or by sub-community, particularly with the OGL, everyone can just put out a retroclone for themselves. If I suffer from the psychopathic delusion that humanoids represent black people I can always make my own extremely woke version without them and put it up for sale.
[Haven for bad behavior if we dont invite politics]
You keep bringing this up, and I don’t see it. Unless you can make a compelling case why these supposed legions of aspiring right-wing extremist dnd-players are much more composed, neutral and willing to forego voicing their badwrong beliefs then their left-wing counterparts I don’t think the statement ‘no politics’ will translate into ‘Nazi DnD Uber Alles!’ I mean Zedeck or Gus L. will probably write a 10.000 word essay on why this is exactly the case any day now but until then No.
I loved Anabasis and would recommend it as a primer on Bronze Age warfare but History of My Times is written for a person who already understands all the factions and contains numerous omissions, which is distracting. I might have appreciated it more if it had not followed in the wake of a magisterial first part by Thuycidides which is comprehensive and clear. Xenophon’s account is a bit more rambling. I don’t think it’s quite bad, but very much below Herodotus and Thuycidides.
Don’t worry, Prince, I’ll keep this short, and you can get back to less disappointing tracts.
With some very minor exceptions, I basically agree with Prince on this. What is the problem to be solved? Why does it need to be addressed on a community level? I think when the exception arises, general consensus will do the trick. When the second edition of RaHoWa is printed, or Rapemaster Deluxe sees the light of day, I’m confident that they will be pushed back under their respective rocks. If not, then the community would justifiably die.
I would only add that this needs to happen in all directions. I’m personally not interested in being a part of any community where only one brand of politics is accepted, whatever the brand. Prince’s reference to “the opposition” gives me pause. The need to debate about “strong female warriors” makes me raise an eyebrow. A commitment to an apolitical community must be thorough, or it’s just an excuse to exclude certain “undesirable” politics.
I agree with many of the things that you’re saying in the abstract, but not necessarily in the concrete. While you are correct that “everything is political,” I think that Prince is right that this CAN be a fanatical outlook if that is one’s only lens. If it is not, then it can be set aside. I think that a healthy gaming community can accept all kinds of implicit political viewpoints without comment. I don’t think a lot of valuable rumination about these ideas can really occur on the internet. At least, I’ve never seen it.
This is something of a blended reply to both @Prince and @Edgewise
As I said, everything having political implications doesn’t mean it MATTERS. I’m from a country where packaging is bilingual by law. There are literally political implications to every single product one can buy in Canada, implicit references to arguments that have been dividing the country for several centuries. At the same time, as a former Prime Minister apparently said when his mother complained about the French on the box of cereal, “So turn the box around.” Generally, it does not matter.
As I also have pointed out, there is a different between things being political and things being politicized. It is the difference between things being flammable and things being on fire. A rule that people should not wander around starting fires is only responsible. A rule that paper is not combustible is not useful.
Context is always going to matter. D&D is perfectly defensible in context. If it is defensible, there is no particular reason to worry about having to do so. A ‘no politics’ rule will not stop a witch-hunt in any case.
My comments re things being morally defensible were in specific reference to that comment.
Frankly, the quote is more defensible as a serious statement than as a joke. At least as a serious statement he does have history on his side – nasty history, but history. As a joke it is not funny, not clever, and wildly tactless. I’m always a bit concerned when people start approvingly quoting war criminals. Especially people who were viewed as such even in the nineteenth century. As a joke, he thinks it’s OK to joke about this guy:
“Chivington gained infamy for leading a 700-man force of Colorado Territory militia during the massacre at Sand Creek in November 1864. An estimated 70–163 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho – about two-thirds of whom were women, children, and infants – were killed and mutilated by his troops. Chivington and his men took scalps and other body parts as battle trophies, including human fetuses and male and female genitalia.”
Also, his response when called on Chivington being awful was “I think some Native guy said something similar once too.” I am not impressed.
His comment is like the name of Lovecraft’s cat. It is a minor thing, it is also a rather nasty thing, and in that context why the hell bother defending it?
Or, y’know. What Trent said a few days ago. lol
[Bad behavior without politics]
First of all, I am not saying INVITE it. The more time a community spends discussing politics, the less healthy it is. Minimizing political discussion and require it be thoughtful and polite would be good.
But I think a quick look at the comments on this post and how a lot of people seem to be interpreting “no politics” as “finally, I am free to bitch about the genderqueer communists who plot to control our minds” kind of demonstrates my point for me. As Edgewise says, a commitment to an apolitical community must be thorough.
Also, I’m pretty sure I’m the only person now required to announce my pronouns at work on a daily fucking basis, and theoretically being held in contempt of court if I do not. None of you have a goddamn thing to complain about yet. Trust me.
My Landmark edition claims Hellenika is best viewed as a direct continuation of Thucydides. While it might not be his equal, for something that is arguably the second proper history ever written (Thucydides being the first, assuming you are prepared to dismiss Herodotus for his willingness to make stuff up, which I am) it’s pretty impressive.
Also, while Xenophon’s prose may rank below Herodotus’, my understanding is that his accuracy is significantly higher.
I would really recommend the Landmark edition if you can find it. A lovely translation, a lovely book, and very handy footnotes.
You should call your post-OSR movement
if only so you can say something like, “There’s the GLOG. And MAGOG”
Incidentally, Artpunk can be rechristened rTPK for fancy
rTPK would get me those sweet sweet Zoomer souls.
If I may suggest a name for the movement, I’d call it “Traditional Role-Playing,” abbreviated as TRP. I think a concept of “tradition” is at the heart of your stated principles. Also, “role-playing” is in the name because, as you say, the play’s the thing.
Unfortunately, “traditional” (often shortened to “trad”) is the term originally used by Forgist / indie / storygame circles to refer to the mainstream, post-old-school mode that has dominated the hobby since the death of old-school circa the mid 80s: “traditional” now widely refers to RPGs where players build their characters and GMs run stories/plots, but the game-mechanics only mechanize things like task-resolution, character abilities, and combat, without also mechanizing the roleplaying elements or having mechanics that aid in collaborative construction of narrative, setting, etc. The exemplars of traditional gaming are AD&D 2e, the old World of Darkness, and D&D 3e/PF and 5e.
Oh yes, I had completely forgotten about that. That’s definitely a shame. It would be great if we could repurpose that term, but it’s probably not worth the potential for confusion.
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Re politics in the actual, unavoidable structure of the gameplay activity: D&D can be for everyone. Vampire or WH40k, not so much.
Core of explanation:
Feudalism and all other power structures in GH and D&D there are very open to interpretation by the reader as to what to make of them. Gygax had a big thing for the Burgundian Wars, the ones that ended feudalism by the power of the Lumpenproletariat and polearms.
Or Swiss Übermenschen? You decide!
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I think rather than “no politics” a better expression of that principle might be something like “no specific set of political beliefs required” combined with “exploration of political issues shouldn’t be the primary driver or point of focus.” Everybody brings some personal beliefs to the table, whether consciously or otherwise, and those are going t come up from time to time in play (and design) and when they do it’s better (IMO) to acknowledge that rather than to try to sweep it under the table or excise it, which leads to both a shallower experience and also requires at least implicit acceptance of an outdated status quo – a lot has changed in the 40+ years since the game was written and there are some elements and language in the old books that wouldn’t pass muster in current society, and denying that is also a political statement. I don’t want my escapist hobby to be a political battleground but I also don’t feel it’s necessary to turn that part of my mind completely off and tacitly accept things I wouldn’t otherwise find acceptable in order to play the game.
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A good balance, I think.
That’s a fine point and I agree. I hope my ‘ Safe haven’ part sort of covers that. I will say that any disagreement at the table that I have seen is usually rooted in underlying social dynamics, not politics.
Everyone: A prophylactic reminder to keep tempers in check. You are of course welcome to discuss politics in this section. Happy gaming.
AD&D asks **What If** not **What Ought**
Get politics and contemporary political culture out of gaming. This is easy when you game with friends because those differences are ironed out or exhausted over time. Weeds of self-praise have been sprouting in the last few years over the activity of playing-online. When you game with random crazies online you are not gaming with people you know or for whom you can tailor a campaign.
I believe AD&D, with its roots in wargaming, more than other games strives for realistic combat to the extent that the DM & his friends appreciate what real combat is like. If you have not experienced battle first hand, you can at least read about it, and IME those who have played contact sports, rugby et al., understand combat in a way that the effeminate majority of leftists don’t.
This does not require excess precision, it requires discernment and learning so that the abstract gradations and bonuses are well judged. So for example in a warrior culture there are no females with Str to compare with warriors, unless for amusement as with the bearded ladies of legend so fond of modern progressives.
This is why self-described old school D&Ders like Trent (female strength/warriors; my granny lifted a tractor over her head) are no different to Never-Played-an-AD&D-Campaign Patrick Stuart (transexual admiration & encouragement) when it comes to AD&D. They find it impossible to shed radical-become-popular insane notions of what is real, so how could they be expected to judge two warriors going at it, or two tactical teams stalking each other. I will give a prize to anyone who can imagine a first world war trenchman appreciating D&D as conducted by either Trent or Patrick.
All the wonder is yet to come but if you are incapable of grounding combat in reality with good judgement then the makey-uppyness might as well be bedtime stories because the ‘reality’ is.
Old school 1970s AD&D had no awareness of the delusions to come, the faddish gender whirlpool of today. I propose political **neutrality** in AD&D means rejecting the sick brainwashing in film, advertising, newspapers, podcasts which came after the1970s.
Kent: “Get politics out of gaming!”
Thanks for your contribution. So intelligent.
This website treats anything in angle brackets as HTML, and displays it as blank. Primitive!
My last comment meant to read:
> Kent: “Get politics out of gaming!”
> Kent: (proceeds to spout non-stop invective towards leftists)
> Thanks for your contribution. So intelligent.
By the way, good job following Prince’s request to keep things civil. You have all the restraint of a dog.
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AD&D does not ask “what if” or “what ought.” If there is any question it definintely asks, it is “HEY WOULDN’T IT BE FUN IF WE WENT INTO THIS DUNGEON, FOUGHT THIS DRAGON, AND STOLE THIS TREASURE?” Any other assumptions it makes are secondary to that.
Getting politics and contemporary political culture out of gaming is not possible, because then you have to get people out of gaming, and once you do that it’s not gaming any more.
Nor is it actually a GOOD thing, when there is a semi-organized group of people whining at full volume about how awful D&D and its old-school players can be, to simply not respond and try to pretend such is not happening. Makes it look like you don’t have any actual intelligent counterarguments.
The idea that D&D is realistic combat is ludicrous, as is the idea that Gary Gygax had better insight into combat in a way that people today would not. Indeed, today we have more modern research and a much wider based community of re-enactors etc to draw from for how combat would actually work. D&D’s combat is arguably rather unrealistic in a lot of ways, including the irrelevance of endurance.
Requiring realism from a game with magic in it is not something where you can simply plug your ears and go “women are weaker than men.” These are legitimate discussions, and while it is not wrong to say “women are generally weaker than men” it is also not wrong to go “I want my female character to be as strong as a man because it’s more fun that way.”
I also think a First World War trenchman is more likely to enjoy a game with someone who thought about things and who was sensitive to his views than a game with someone who claimed to understand combat because he’d played contact sports. Do I really need to explain to you that the playing fields of Eton were not, in fact, a good analogue for the trenches of the Somme?
The idea that society was at peak morality in the 1970s and has since been dragged down is disgusting and stupid, and I do not say that lightly. Nor is the idea that modern issues of gender etc are unprecedented accurate. Much as they often annoy me (and given that I work in an incredibly broken justice system which has just decided that announcing your pronouns at each court appearance is what’s REALLY important, I am allowed to be far more annoyed about this stuff than any of you), they are not new.
And practically speaking, even if you WERE right, unless you want the hobby to be entirely old hard-of-thinking reactionaries whining to each other about how much better things were in the old days, you still need to deal with the modern world.
[wrt female strength]
Its a fine line. The existence of Red Sonja or Jirel Joiry or Gordiye or swordmaidens is a well-worn trope in mythology and the appendix N so I certainly begrudge no one playing one. It is easy to accept a statistical anomaly because heroes are exceptional characters in and of themselves. I draw the line at portraying fantastical societies in ways that go against everything we know and understand because the contemporary moral palette finds these realities to be indigestible. The ‘there’s magic so it doesn’t matter if its realistic’ argument is a poor one, as good fantasy is rooted in versimilitude like any fiction. People in fantasy are still people. ‘Because its more fun that way,’ should not be used to overwrite basic common sense.
The argument is that AD&D and Gary Gygax had a more realistic understanding of combat then either Trent or PS. I would urge Kent to at least check out Trent’s contribution to No Artpunk and see if the Xvart tactics therein meet his hoity toity standards. I personally found the combat in Melonath Falls to be much closer to the Gygaxian Ideal then anything else I have read this year.
W.R.T. Stuart: Wasn’t he on a mission to make a game that is nonviolent? I’ll believe that taking inspiration from historical sources and possibly some sort of ersatz practical experience probably trumps watching animu and warhammer, but I am unsure how much it matters.
The notion that D&D realistically represents combat or that anyone here is capable of really evaluating that is a huge diversion. Real melee is not a roll on a jiu-jitsu mat or a rugby scrum. I’ll accept that someone with experience in HEMA etc. would have something valuable to say about the topic, but even then, there are limits. Especially when you consider fighting DRAGONS. I’m not even sure why we’re talking about this.
As for strong female warriors, I feel like that’s another weird hill to die on. Prince, I disagree with you on this: if I can accept a world with magic, I can accept a world with a higher percentage of female outliers in terms of physical strength. It’s really that simple. As long as nobody is arguing that it’s realistic, I don’t see the problem. Even besides magic, most fantasy worlds have far more unrealistic details. We’re not playing Harn.
On the other hand, I see no problem with people choosing not to play in a setting like this. The question of strong female warriors is certainly something best left to individual gaming groups. Trying to settle this on a community-wide level seems like exactly the kind of political argument to be avoided.
Re female strength:
I would concur that verisimilitude is important (my point was merely that you can’t just go “but biology” in a game with magic. You have to actually engage with the issue. In a game simulating medieval life, you definitely COULD just go “now how it worked, deal with it”). At the same time, finding the appropriate compromises to that to maximize fun without damaging it is also important, and while a game where the majority of warriors were women would be ill-conceived in my view (for population-based reasons rather than strength, honestly) I think you could certainly run it. Also, from a practical perspective, the things women seem to do better at than men are going to be hard to represent in a game in a way people are happy with – they are hard to quantify and not nearly as straightforward as strength. And having a female character be a straight downgrade to a male one is neither good game design nor tactful.
Though I would comment that really, almost no issue is one that can or should be ‘settled’ by the community. You discuss them, the positions are made clear, and then individuals go off and do whatever the hell they want. Ideally, they make a better decision because of the discussion.
Re realistic combat:
OD&D/AD&D offers little or no benefit for formations, you can effectively fight more than one opponent at the same time without penalty, there’s little or no scope for endurance and being tired out by fighting for long periods, armor is equally effective against each type of weapon, weapons are equally effective against each type of armor, armor is not degraded with damage, grappling etc is an afterthought…
I’m not saying it’s a bad combat system. But the idea that it is some pillar of realism such that modern mortal weakness cannot grasp it is laughable.
Dungeonmod. If they’re (punk) rockers, it only makes sense to be the mods. Or possibly mockers, as George Harrison put it in A Hard Day’s Night.
New School D&D?
The Castle Greyhawk Preservation Society?
NSR – New School Rules. Old School, but informed by greater wisdom.
More accurately: You are Teddy boys. Even down to those who keep on bringing up “effeminate” as something bad and some even fielding the confederate flag out of misguided loyalty and “charm of the era”.
Now, that being said, as “Artpunk” is already something like post-punk/new romanticism, there is still the promise of raw Punk and proper DIY: a word doc and dungeon idea!.
Fight On! had it, while it lasted. And the recent compilation channelled that energy. Keep loving Bob Wills & Bo Diddley beats, (I mean the Moldvay & DMG), and stick it to the man.
Proper lads with upright posture.
No Artpunk is the most counter-culture Punk thing that was put out this year. Fucking fact.
Hmm, don’t see much of them around anymore; punk certainly won that war with the stomp of a Doc Marten. I had never even heard of them. (Very interesting, though!) Maybe not the best model for a movement that intends to prevail?
I mean, the Teddy Boys are fairly closely linked with race riots. So probably not the best inspiration to lean on when trying to minimize political overtones in the game.
Dungeonpunk is already a thing, or I’d say do that.
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Tradpunk! I rather like that!
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Tradpunk has a certain something. I would approve.
I think it captures the “goddammit, we don’t want to be part of some cultural movement in any direction, we want to play fucking games with dragons in them” viewpoint well, too. A view all right-thinking people can get angry in defense of.
Tradpunk. An elegant rebellion for a more civilised age.
(And Luke, after I finished debating with your father, he didn’t have a leg to stand on.)
“No Artpunk is the most counter-culture Punk thing that was put out this year. Fucking fact.”
YES. I heartily agree, and applaud you for it!
Let us all do more in that spirit. I hereby suggest variation on the title:
“No Art: Punk!”
“No Art, Punk!”
I am partial to the last one. keep rockin’
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I think a valuable concept here, btw, may be the distinction between something being politicized and merely political.
There’s politics in everything, because there’s people in everything. But politicization is when the thing itself becomes political, when the game becomes subordinated to the political goals or an expression of them.
In the context of human pastimes, politicization is almost always a bad thing and to be avoided. That is definitely so here.
D&D is not, cannot, and should not be a political statement.
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Finally, we agree on something.
It is certainly possible to play AD&D with a weak grip on reality and poor judgement, after all I’m sure that’s how my game looked in my teens. But as teens we knew no better and did the best we could. We exploited the *supernatural* character of the game to provide sweeping causes and explanations which later in adulthood would be provided from history, archaeology, architecture, myth and other studies. This forced, or allowed, the *supernatural* to adopt subtler, stranger forms.
Combat is no different. Action should be realistic, plausible and judiciously handled by the DM. System remains mechanically simple but abstract and requires elaboration, movement and manoeuvres in particular need development, and interpretation of all stats. Isn’t a Str 18/75 fighter massive and heavy? In consequence he may be a poor rock climber. Elite soldiers may require a Wis 16 for the qualities of self-reliance and determination.
This is a topic I first discovered online. I had never had female fighters in the game, it just never occurred to me. In a fantasy world there is nothing wrong with having women as strong as men but a consequence is that women would be the same size as men and have wiry rather than soft flesh. I don’t think that’s what the virtue signallers have in mind though. It is not an important issue but indicates a DM should be avoided for having a weak grip on reality.
The way I would have a female fighter would be through magic, either a magic sword or a Magic-user class whose spells focus on martial arts.
[By the way, good job following Prince’s request to keep things civil. You have all the restraint of a dog.]
It is too civil here. The comments are dull.
Come on, get real. Even if you happen to be a decorated SAS colonel and actually have an idea what real combat is like, you’re expecting too much from a community of gamers, especially if this realism is supposed to be applied through GM rulings. Do you actually think that you’re qualified to speak on this, anyway?
Besides, the same thing applies to every aspect of gaming. “Realistic” psychology, culture, politics, architecture, etc. are all filtered through the GM’s understanding of such. In practical terms, this is always going to fall short. An uncompromising insistence on “realism” for your elfgaming is just a non-starter.
Do the best you can, GMs. This topic is a waste of further discussion.
You want to turn everywhere into YDIS. Sorry, that day is done. All you contribute is trolling. Seriously, all your points in this thread have been terrible. Don’t you think it’s time to grow up? @Prince: Bryce had the right idea.
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Do you want a cuddle?
It’s gonna be a “pass” on that, big guy.
Looks like your trolling is now in its refractory period, and you’ve broken out the tissues. Off with you now! The adults are talking.
Melan, Prince, you guys have been spot-on.
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Gary Gygax was a libertarian-leaning conservative and also a product of a different generation – he came of age in the 50s, was a full generation older than the first generation of D&D fans (who were mostly teenagers while he was in his 40s) and more than half a century older than most contemporary 5E fans. He was both a product of a very different world and conservative even by the standards of that world (it feels like he actually became more conservative as he got older, but it’s likely just that he became more publicly vocal about it due to the internet).
All of that is almost totally irrelevant to D&D in any meaningful or substantial way. There are a few traces of old-fashioned or outdated (by contemporary standards) sexual, racial, and cultural attitudes – all of the things I mentioned in the earlier comment – all of which can be easily ignored or excised without having any impact on the rest of the game. Some more of it shows up in his magazine editorials and after-the-fact online Q&A (perhaps most infamously his claim that female brains aren’t wired to enjoy rpgs) which is even less germane to the actual game and more easily ignored.
It is entirely, 100% possible to find this stuff cringey and embarrassing and even reprehensible and for that to have zero impact on anything to do with how you approach or play the game – you don’t need to address or grapple with or justify any of this stuff because none of it matters to the game, it’s all incidental. Whether you accept it or reject it or never consider it at all doesn’t need to have any impact on the game at all unless you choose for it to.
And that’s the nub of the issue, that many people do choose to make it an issue in both directions. The folks who condemn old-school D&D in toto because Gary held some outdated and unsavory beliefs are well-known and old-school fans have expended a lot of angst and effort trying to argue against or respond to that line of attack. But there’s another group who mirrors that argument and specifically embraces all of that stuff and politicizes D&D by trying to build it up as a reactionary conservative or libertarian manifesto. I’ve spent many years biting my tongue around these folks because they’re ostensibly part of “my tribe,” but in fact I think they’re wrong and doing way more harm than good and I hate being associated with them. Keeping politics out of D&D has to go both ways – not condemning it for the old-fashioned stuff or Gygax’s extracurricular views and statements but not trying to praise and elevate that stuff either, to insist that old-school D&D is or can or should be a bulwark against progressive or effeminate values or some regressive and reprehensible bullshit. I am no more willing to embrace and accept that stuff and identify myself as part of that group than I am to toss Gygax and his works into the dustbin of history.
The game is the game. None of the first 11 points in the OP are either delegitimized by or necessitate accepting a bunch of politically-sensitive side issues.
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I want to marry this comment, then raise a well-adjusted 2.5 kids with it and have family game nights where we poke everything with a ten foot pole. With Trent as the godfather for all of the kids.
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Since this is really a post on non-artpunk, and I do not wish to wear out our host’s welcome (I know it is abundant), I will respond in brief.
1) Certainly, a good sentiment for 2011, one I once agreed with. I no longer do, because…
2) It is naive beyond belief to think that the people who have *already* come for the drow, and in-game slavery, and orcs (long after Mr. Lovecraft’s bust) will not come for AD&D once they are done cancelling Gary, which they seem dead set on. These tinpot tyrants will just be back with new demands; in fact, they already are.
3) We, as gamers of all stripes, have the right to stay and enjoy our hobby the way we do, and nobody gets to dictate the terms on how we do it, period. The Golden Rule leads us to treat others with basic kindness and generosity, but if we must fight – we will fight. Come at us with a sword, and die by the sword.
@Simulated Knave: So you already have to bend the knee in Leafland, but we should not even talk about the problem because the gendeerqueer communists have not come for us *yet*? That’s surely the trade deal to end all trade deals.
* * *
And to start the year on a high note, our future theme song from the great Surviving Edged Weapons:
“In my mind, I’m never gonna die in no ghetto. Absolutely never. A man turns around and punches me in the head, the fight’s on. If he cuts me, the fight’s on. If I’m shot, the fight is on. I’m not losing no fight to no scumbag out there in no ghetto, period. That’s it. No son of a bitch out there is gonna get me. The only way he gets me is cut my head off, and I mean that. I’ll fight you til I got a breath left in me. I don’t think any of those animals in that street can beat me. I’ve been going that way for eighteen years of street service, street duty, and that’s the way I’m gonna keep on going. You don’t lose the fight.”
I’m not the one saying the place needs no politics, @Melan.
You know what’s a supposedly apolitical arena? The courts. And what that ends up meaning is that it’s political whenever anyone in authority wants to politicize it, but that most of the people involved can’t say anything. I assure you, the policies we follow are not arrived at through discussion amongst a community.
Forbidding politics would mean forbidding woke. It also means forbidding whining about woke. Or whining about the whining about woke. Or even discussions of a lot of relatively innocuous issues, because even those do have political implications.
As I said at the outset of this discussion, I think I know what the rule’s aiming for, and I also think it doesn’t quite capture it.
Also, you do realize that guy’s supposedly a cop? i.e. what he is worrying about is statistically demonstrated to be bullshit? There is an irony in it as a choice of example. And that is an excellent example of something that I think would not be acceptable in a “no politics” forum (even if he wasn’t a cop). So if you think it can be the theme song, I think your understanding of “no politics” is very different than mine.
It’s a little tricky to untangle this. I’ll try to do it succinctly.
I am fully in agreement with the idea that a gaming community should eschew politics. It’s not 100% clear to me whether or not @Trent agrees with this, but it seems to me that he does. I really appreciated his last post either way.
What concerns me is that some folks like you seem to be equating an apolitical community with a community that will fight against the no-good woke leftists. To me, the latter is the very definition of “political.” Same with the seeming need to disallow female characters with 18 Strength. Y’all are UTTERLY fooling yourselves if you think any of that is apolitical. To me, that only strengthens @SK’s argument that political discussions are inextricable. I disagree with him on that (and little else), but at least he seems aware of his own biases.
Furthermore, if you think that the community will stand as one at the battlements, then I think you have a very small community in mind. Which is fine, but it diminishes the value and impact of this potential Tradpunk movement (still loving that label). If you want to be part of a gaming movement that is known more for pushing back (solely) against leftists than for espousing neglected notions of adventure design…well, I’ll be over there.
I like a lot of what you’re saying. The only real point of contention that we have is that you are much more willing to entertain political conversations in a gaming community. I think @Melan might have a point that you’re being a little naive here. While I don’t share his presumption of bad faith, I feel like 99% of every political discussion I’ve witnessed online has deteriorated into a complete shitshow. I just don’t think there’s a way to keep it civil unless everyone is on the same page, and even then, schisms erupt over minor contentions of doctrine.
I don’t visit there much anymore (not because I’m disgruntled; long story), but I think RPGPub does a good job at maintaining an apolitical community. It’s not airtight, as that would be nearly impossible, but every attempt to stir up a political dust-up is generally met with wagging fingers from mods and posters alike. It gets shutdown pretty reliably, and the community there generally appreciates this. It’s a model that should be more widely emulated.
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Ditto re the pleasures of discussion with you and a suspicion of generalized agreement.
I think you are wise to suggest something cultural may be the best way to handle these sorts of things.
I actually tend to despise political conversations these days (especially online ones), because people are idiots uninterested in reality (until you’ve had a left-wing activist lecture you about why police body cams are bad because that’ll mean the police are able to observe people just by being present, you have not truly experienced stupidity). I just think there’s some political things (I keep coming back to the prisoners thing, but I think it’s a good example – alignment would be another one to some extent) that might well be worth discussion. I would want to mostly preserve those discussions, while cutting out people trying to rant about the evils of [ideology of choice]. Plus, as mentioned, you can do explicitly political campaigns – I don’t think many would argue that a campaign set up around breaking a local slaver’s guild would be out of keeping with D&D.
Verisimilitude is a huge part of proper roleplaying – but verisimilitude is inherently political, because what you will and
won’t accept the world as being IS bound up in politics.
I have no perfect solution to the issue, unfortunately.
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Clearly, if my comment has not been understood by two posters, it must have been written poorly. I will attempt to clarify my points.
I would broadly agree with @Simulated Knave’s 5:23 pm post from yesterday. Games may have subconscious political values*, and they are a fine hobby to examine political and philosophical “what-ifs” **, but turning them into vehicles for a particular brand of politics, or turning the scene into a political battleground is a waste of time, and in poor taste. Sure. Yet it is obviously happening in a way it didn’t happen before. You certainly did not see these arguments about “problematic content” ten years ago, nor the increasingly nasty demands to either remove it or burn the whole thing to the ground. It is not something I appreciate, or something I advocated for, but here we are.
If gaming goes back to normal, that will be great, and I will not press the issue, because it is better to focus on what matters. But come at me, and I will defend myself, simple as. So will others, and if the attacks are political, then by Jove, the fight will be political. What else could it be? Ultimately, if the gaming I love can only survive as a small right-wing bubble, that’s a loss, but it beats getting driven out of the hobby.
(The quote from the video has no ulterior meaning. I simply find it inspiring, funny, and even touching on a certain level. It has certainly stuck in my mind for the better part of a decade.)
* If we have to talk about these biases, though, RPGs have always been leftist outside a few marginal milsim RPGs and a few (not all) obscure flavours of AD&D. That was just the zeitgeist. The only reason all these games are now coming under fire is that the Overton Window in the West has been pushed to the far left, and suddenly everything is on fire.
** This is something I have really enjoyed on a personal level, from dumb jokes to more elaborate thought-experiments.
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I’m also growing conscious of our host’s indulgence, so I want to wrap this up (for now). Still, it’s important to lay the groundwork.
Thanks for the clarification. I think I understand your stance better. I still disagree, assuming I understand you correctly, but our difference of opinion narrows.
The impression I get is that if someone arrives to say that Gygax was a pro-slavery misogynist, and the hobby should be rebooted from scratch, your response would be something along the lines of “Look, ASSHOLE, you’re WRONG and this is why…”
What I’m suggesting is that your response should be “Look, ASSHOLE, shut the fuck up. I don’t care about your opinion, and you’re breaking the rules with your stupid politics.”
At which point your left-and-middle-leaning friends like me, @SK and @Trent will chime in:
“Yeah, shithead, cut the crap and take it to reddit!”
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It’s pretty cool to see @SK be the living example of the worthiness of Prince’s 12th rule. We are trying to talk about gaming, and one guy is telling us that actually politics *are* important in gaming, and should be brought up, and we all have to solve D&D’s political problems.
Even better, his example used is the silly thought-experiment of “orc prisoners,” a goofy example if ever there was one.
And no matter how many people say “Actually I agree with that 12th rule, it is there for a reason, it allows us to have nice things” he keeps coming. Is that irony, or just ideology at work?
“I actually tend to despise political conversations these days (especially online ones)…”
And yet here we are.
See, this is why I don’t like political discussions. Because they always feature a lot of people who need to work on their reading comprehension. I did not say we have to solve D&D’s political problems – I said there needs to be room to talk about them. Indeed, I have said that one-size-fits-all solutions for a lot of them probably aren’t possible. You’ll also note that I have specifically said I think politicizing D&D is a bad idea and something that needs to be avoided. I do not like politicized spaces. They bring out the hard-of-thinking and evidence-averse.
You are correct that several people have said “I agree with that rule about no politics.” Some of them have also done so while making explicitly political statements that they claim that rule is consistent with. Perhaps try to conclude something from that.
All role-playing is a silly thought-experiment. One of the pillars of the OSR is the move toward more naturalism, more use of morale rules, things of that nature. I recall a scenario Prince reviewed that discussed what the gnoll civilians would be doing as the PCs invaded (trying to flee out a secret passage). I recall this being referred to with approval, and rightly so. These sorts of things do matter, at least in the context of creating good D&D.
This is especially so if you are discussing how to make your silly-thought experiments have old-school verisimilitude. Which is going to mean a silly thought-experiment with a lot of emphasis on naturalism, armies, exploration, conquest, and the establishment of kingdoms (among other things). That is very much not the coming thing in modern thought, and going “no politics” is not going to be the effective defense so many people keep claiming it would be. It is ESPECIALLY not going to be an effective defense in the context of a community where there are people who seem to think going “you’re a bad DM if you allow female PCs to be as strong as male PCs because you can’t deal with reality” is not being political. That way torches and pitchforks lie.
A no-politics rule is very broad, very sweeping, and I think will cut out a LOT of what is integral to figuring out good old-school roleplaying. I also think it is likely to make it no easier to mount any effective defense of aspects people claim are problematic, and may make it harder by making it more difficult to draw lines within the context of the community. I also don’t think it’s exactly what Prince meant in any case – he means don’t have toxic godawful discussions where you try to prove people are bad people and must be cancelled, or make sweeping pronouncements about how what you do at the gaming table means you secretly believe evil. Because this is a fucking game, meaning it is both something we do to not deal with such things and because what you are willing to tolerate in entertainment (even something highly personal and self-created like D&D) does not necessarily say that much about what you are willing to tolerate in reality.
“If D&D is intellectually and morally defensible (and it is), it deserves to actually be defended. If not, those aspects of it that aren’t need to change.”
“See, this is why I don’t like political discussions. Because they always feature a lot of people who need to work on their reading comprehension”
Do me a favour.
What, explain more slowly?
I’m assuming you’re trying to suggest I am contradicting myself because a week ago I said what you quoted, and in my earlier post I said I was not saying D&D needed to change.
If I say “if D&D is not defensible it needs to change” and I also say “D&D is defensible” I am saying D&D does not need to change.
See what I meant about reading comprehension?
Thing is much more complicated. Currently (as in this very moment), there is more vile, community-destroying shit going on on the right of US-RPG-online culture than in the left. Histerical paranoia, boycotts, call for violence, proscription lists with ever-more ridiculous reasons for putting people and companies on it and so on are strong on theRPGSite, for example. Also: monetization of outrage.
Where it becomes even more difficult is companies like Paizo and especially WotC: WotC actually has racist and mysogynist practices, as a company (not so much in their products)! Magic the Gathering is rife with actual racism in their judge and player engagement programs, for example. Paizo is treating their employees like shit and women doubly so. But instead of addressing these, they both give ornamental tokens of equality or caring in their products. Fig-leaves at best.
So at the same time, we have actual problems, but we get presented with fake solutions. These fake solutions are chaffs & decoys. And more often than not, the woke-crowd, like an IR-missile, homes in on the decoys, with the Anti-SJWs running behind them, like foolish dogs. Or denying there are any real-world problems to begin with.
The worst turn I have seen from the right is then starting to sympathize with the ridiculous positions nobody ever held at start (see Kent on strength). Out of spite. Or out of glee: right-wingers have really come to LOVE whining about SJWs. And this is as stupid as it is making their position small and less sophisticated.
Sanity lies in a stiff upper lip and this includes keeping the high ground by continued differentiation. If retarded activism is answered by a different brand of retarded activism, we get a retard-war where everybody loses. The best option there is not to fight in such a war.
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Last word here.
No. Horrible take. The Boomer Right of Rpg culture which you describe, especially in the OSR, is a tiny enclave inhabited by Rpgpundit, Venger and ??? Grimjim?!? Jobe Bittman maybe? Boycotts of Wizards are probably a good idea in principle, but it doesn’t exactly matter for either party since everyone involved is too small and its shit anyway. This enclave, sad to say for my boy Venge, is not an influential force in the OSR (again, because it isn’t engaging within the OSR) and directs nearly all of its ire at WotC and 5e.
The Rpgsite is a shadow of its former self, with more then half of it moving to the Rpgpub, which is a functional place for discord because it has GUESS WHAT good no politics rules that are arbitrated well. Bryce’s tiny enclave forum, which I happen to administer, is also still functional because it also has a no politics rule.
Pretending that WotC or Paizo are bad because they are corrupt, or because the Activists hit the wrong targets (they don’t) misses the point. They would be terrible for DnD even if they were living up to their own ideals (which is impossible but that is also beside the point). In the current climate, going along with anyone trying to push for supposedly beneficial social changes in the hobby is indefensibly stupid. Just don’t do it. Play DnD.
A pushback against these forces, and fucking F in the chat @SK for whining about people whining about ‘genderqueer commies mind controlling people’ while in the same sentence he admits that he is legally compelled to accept a radical social constructionist view of sexuality or risk incurring a criminal offence, is absolutely neccessary but Settembrini is correct that very often, pushback is all that there is, no alternative is provided.
You want to have an influence? You make it fun or compelling for people to go along with that.
In my book you either think old DnD is worthwhile as it is, and you want to preserve and build on that legacy, you are oblivious to it, you don’t care about it or you have a weird grudge that causes you to want to descredit and attack it. Now I happen to think that most of you fall in the former category. That’s all that matters to me. We can figure out these tiny differences of opinion, or if Elves were actually meant to be mexicans later.
The problem with retard wars is that you don’t get to pick if they are on. You get to pick how you fight them. Sides that employ a variety of strategies are more likely to be successfull then those that only stick to the high ground. Ask the baddies, they’ve been doing a good job at it for decades.
You are good people. You just frustrate me sometimes.
Good timing for me…I was just about to post how I’ve said all I wanted to say about politics and I’d be moving on to another topic.
That topic being labels and branding. Don’t worry, this is (hopefully!) neither boring nor contentious.
Anyway, it seems like a lot of people are digging “Tradpunk,” so I’m going to go ahead and use that for now. While I was walking my dog this morning, I thought to myself “What does this mean for volume two of ‘No-Artpunk’? Is that label simply to be discarded? It’s a little awkward to change the label of something between the first and second releases.”
Then it came to me: Tradpunk and No-Artpunk are not the same thing. No-Artpunk is not the name of the movement, but the contest. And while the contest rules fit squarely within the Tradpunk principles as set forth by Prince, the reverse is not true. The contest rules are definitely more restrictive, and that’s not a bad thing.
This reminded me of an art movement I hadn’t thought about in quite some time (almost 25 years, actually): Dogme 95.
To those who don’t remember, never heard of it or never cared, Dogme (or Dogma) 95 was a filmmaking manifesto set forth (principally) by Lars Von Trier, dictating that films that qualify under the label must be made according to extremely naturalistic standards. Stories about ordinary people in contemporary settings, no action or violence, no soundtrack except for incidental music, etc. Some people may have thought that this was his prescription for cinema in general, but it was really just an exercise in unembellished storytelling of immediate relevance to the audience. Do you see where I’m going here?
This brings to mind a truism in art, that restriction often breeds creativity. You can see this in how many first-time filmmakers or musicians manage to construct something striking and original right out of the gate, but once a larger publisher throws a big budget at them for their sophomore effort, they are overwhelmed by all the options. This in turn reminds me of the lyrics for the White Stripes’ “Little Room”:
Well, you’re in your little room
And you’re working on something good
But if it’s really good
You’re gonna need a bigger room
And when you’re in the bigger room
You might not know what to do
You might have to think of how you got started
Sitting in your little room
Anyway, I hope someone find this little rumination on labels, art and limitations to be interesting. If there’s a takeaway here, it’s that there’s no reason to retire the label No-Artpunk—`at least for those adventures that comply with the Prince’s contest standards, and the compilation series of the same name. Viva Tradpunk! Long live No-Artpunk!
I really, really want to have a discussion on whether or not Elves were actually meant to be Mexicans. That would be amazing.
If you cut the unicorn, doesn’t it bleed rainbows and happy clowns?
PS: Huzzah for your stance, fer realz.
To be clear, I’m not saying the genderqueer commies aren’t trying to mind control people. I’m saying complaining about it is talking about politics and taking a political stance, and people who seem to think it isn’t are mistaken. The real life example is to point out that if I can manage to not constantly complain about it given what’s going on in my actual life and work, they should damn well be able to manage to be quiet about it for five seconds in a blog about elfgames. And also that they have not yet experienced actual problems in that sphere.
Then again, you may have recognized that that’s what I was doing.
Your comment re if you want to influence people you need to make it fun or compelling for them to come along is, I think, very very wise.
This is stupid of me, but there are 98 comments and I REALLY want to be #99 (or maybe #100…we’ll see if some cross-poster beats me to the punch).
We live in a polarized political climate these days. Hell, we live in a very stressed out environment these days. You’ve got COVID, you’ve got economic disaster, you’ve got climate catastrophes, you’ve got fucking idiots on both sides of the political spectrum. It’s a shit-show.
D&D isn’t really a great place to “do” politics. Because D&D isn’t real. Regarding ADVENTURE DESIGN (which is really what the “No Art-Punk” thing is about…a pushback against a particular style/trend of adventure design which, uh, kind of misses the point of how/why D&D functions at a high level DESPITE its inane premise of dungeons and whatnot), you can write whatever politics you want into the damn thing, but you know what? It’s not very fucking effective. At least not at making REAL change in the REAL world.
If you have a cause you care about…straight white male privilege or rainbow queer representation or application of diverse inverted colonialist blah-blah-blah…whatever!…then go and vote for it, march for it, talk about it, write about it, whatever! Do it! Support it!
And YES you CAN put it into your game/setting/adventure design, if you so choose. But if you do THAT…if you decide your elves are all oppressed trans people or your dwarves are bearded skinheads that have been misconstrued or whatever…just KNOW that it’s not the most effective use of your time, skill, wit, and passion. Maybe you’ll make a few extra sales (because people love it OR hate it and because there’s no such thing as bad publicity) and maybe you’ll lose a few sales (because people hate it or simply hate politics in their gaming material) but you are not going to be effecting Great Change In The World.
And it’s always POSSIBLE that you’ll be having the opposite effect of what you desire. When NFL players knelt during the National Anthem (of the U.S.) in order to draw attention to racial injustice in policing that was occurring (and still occurs) in my country, there were many folks who simply could not get past their “disrespect” of our flag/nation…those ungrateful millionaire athletes were pissing all over service men who protected their freedom, godammit (or so the line went). Does that mean one shouldn’t take a stand (or, in this case, a knee) for something they believe in? No, of course not. But recognize that some will be unaffected, and some will be outraged, and…at least with regard to RPGs…the impact you have may be a lot less than you hope for. Better to run for public office or campaign for the candidate that supports your interests…at least your efforts at enacting change will be more likely to meet with success.
That being said: I do not begrudge individuals who wish to include a “political agenda” in their RPG publications. But it doesn’t exactly excite/incite me either…at least, I haven’t yet read something “political” (gaming-wise) that moved my needle one way or the other. In the end, it is the DESIGN that I’m looking at; when I reviewed (for example) Seven Voyages of Zylarthen I noted the author’s problematic politics even as I discussed what I found good/intriguing about his game (which I did not find to be political in any particular fashion, for the record).
Some folks are assholes. What else is new? We’ve all had our shitty moments…hopefully the Universe/God will serve us ALL our just (and richly deserved) desserts.
So what is all this hatred of politics in gaming about? Why this whole fear of “give them an inch, they’ll take a mile?” Change and progress seems (to me) an uncomfortable inevitability we all need to get used to, but this reaction seems even greater. Are we worried that the liberals will eventually “cancel” us simply for wanting to kill orc babies? I have two thoughts to offer in this regard:
1) *I* am a pinko-commie-liberal (like my father before me) and I assure you I have NO PROBLEM with wanting to kill orc babies. Orc babies grow up to EAT PEOPLE (and elves and hobbits, etc.), and not in the oh-I-live-on-a-small-island-and-it’s-part-of-my-spiritual-traditions thing. All apologies to John Wick (I loves me some OrkWorld) but kill them young, BEFORE they can heft an axe. Jeez.
2) The edition of the game that I play got “cancelled” circa 1988. I’m still playing it. I’m still writing adventures for it. I’m still teaching it to folks (including my own kids and their friends). I don’t THINK I’ll get “cancelled” for enjoying that shady ol’ AD&D, but if I do I can *still* sell books off my blog (as I’ve been doing for years) or at cons (once the COVID dies down) and seriously DOUBT I’d be losing a bunch of money. Because it’s not like people make a bunch of money on this particular hobby (even the successful folks). Even the folks writing bestselling 5E shlock. And losing your reputation? That shit goes out the window as soon as you put your real name on an elf book.
So fuck it. Write politically if you want (just know you’re not achieving much). Don’t rail against the politics of others (or the shitty changes that you can’t prevent) ESPECIALLY when you’re already playing a long-dead game. Examine the DESIGN…see if THAT is any good, bitch/moan about THAT, demand change in THAT area. As Prince has done with his “No ArtPunk” contest. “Design” is something we can have valid concerns over; play of the game (and books designed to facilitate that play) are valid/useful targets for critique and criticism.
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Human nature does not change. That is my white pill.
What is happening over last century is that ever unfathomable elites, imperceptible above democratic governments, having acquired illimitable funds and immunity to assassination (which was the natural ‘crop’ rotation of elites), have become interested in exercising power for its own sake not merely to acquire wealth which being superabundant has little status among these gods.
The problem for us is that our (mass man) subjection has become part of their aggrandisement. They have decided that **lowering our standards** is the cheapest way to elevate their status. It might surprise progressives to learn that measurable intelligence has dropped in western Europe in the last hundred years, independently of mass immigration which has lowered it even further, all by design.
The very idea of progressivism — sexual deviance, degeneracy, and the normalisation through media of mental illness, has been developed explicitly to unnerve sane white europeans, and to pit them against their mentally fragile brethren. White women should not have children and are outraged when men don’t find them attractive in their 40s. Men are encouraged to embrace homosexuality, which looks to me like a campaign to infantilize young men. White europeans are being invited to their own extinction.
Those are some of the ingredients of the widely dispersed black pill. So why am I white pilled? Because Human nature is constant. The progressive anti-white propaganda in education requires extraordinary effort because it is insane. I have seen how young people behave in the absence of aggressive propaganda. There is no lasting effect of lies, lies have to be maintained. Every time the energy of the lying teachers wanes the kids will naturally erupt with foul but appropriate language.
Twenty years without universal propaganda and Humanity will be back to normal with progressives in the degenerate nutbag sack on a forgotten shelf in a museum.
Professor, “Oh look, remember when Transexuals were considered sane. Oh how embarrassing!
Student, “Wasn’t that the period when professors were afraid to speak the truth”
Student’s Girlfriend, “Gnom gnom cock gnom slurp hero gnom gulp”
My First Post (Hey Prince!)
Incoming weaponized opinions. This thread entire has birthed a new game obsessed with Politicization (or not) of OD&D. Still, that is separate from our chosen game. I have and will continue to engage in D&D in all it’s myriad flavors. And yet, one could lift some of the ideas inherent to all this bickering and insert it as a variant and compelling theme in a one shot scenario or an over-arching campaign. You may come to realize that D&D is not limited by City-states, Feudalism or even what may lay beyond Technocratic Oligopoly.
Political extremes can spice up a game world for good or ill.., Just have some sense of making it playable and fun as a pastime. Witch Burners Incorporated? Janissaries for Halfling LGBTQ paymasters? Stopping Political Power Broker Liches from harvesting Adrenochrome from terrorized infants? Zionist Censor Golems versus the Nazi Obsessed Gamers ostensibly created by this forum? (sorry prince, I could not resist) The Esteemed Chapter of Orcish Planned Parenthood Representatives? I could go on all Day, somebody, please stop me.
Remember,, The Play Is The Thing. Simply pick an ideology and present it as part of a compelling story. Your players will make their own decisions on who are the Bad Guys. Hilarity Ensues.
And now, to the gist of this whole thread. Throwing it out there.., UD&D
And while the U could hove to other themes descriptive of our hobby, Ultra places it as above and beyond. U could stead for Undead, which shows D&D will not lie down quietly in it’s moldering sepulcher Or Unlimited. Uber There are just too many U words, so zipping up the pudding trough while I yam behind. Udderly behind.
And as an aside, I must blurt out that Elves are some idealized vision of nordic Frenchmen that never existed. For Tolkien they are like fallible angelic exemplars. For Santa they are dexterous and talented Helpers. In real life role-playing ( IRLRP LOL) they must become common, or Highbrow Murder-Hobos or maybe even Exceptional but that all depends on the player. For me, elves will continue to be Tolkien-esque Noldor unless a campaign world may specify some ribald derivation thereof. But.., for all I don’t know.., Gygax Elves may well be Mexican.
Up Inda Attic
Uh…yeah. Welcome to Age of Dusk man.
I am suspicious this poster is PrinceofNothing in disguise.
They have the same far-more-than-enough style.
Mexican elves? May I refer you to Gaz 3, The Principalities of Glantri and Dona Carnelia de Belcadiz.
Fun fact she’s named after Moorcock’s Jerry Carnelian, several other Glantrian nobility also get names from Moorcock.
That’s definitely OSR
The Glantrian elves are definitely Spaniards, not Mexicans.
Gaz3 rocks. Real eccentric mix of influences in the Wizards, very unconventional with the addition of the Blackmoor tech too. All around wacky. I don’t know if B/X – BECMI would be any good if you’d play in it without the (illegal) clerics, but it sounds wild.
Lol @ Jonathan Becker, yes de Belcadiz seem more Spanish at first blush, but Mystaran lore possibly locates their origin further west in areas closer to Mystara Mexico equivalents. Arguing these points though in the context of this thread, is in the realm of considering which flavour of candy floss the angels are eating, while they dance on the head of a pin 😉
Pertinently to the bulk of the thread though, where once RPGers argued theory in terms of simulationists vs narrativists , it’s clear that politics and culture have boiled to points of crystallisation and precipitation that theorists of the ludic nature of our hobby need to react.
Maybe we should consider what’s fantasy and what’s phantasy in our games? Whose Mythic Underworld do we descend into?
This might be a the work of another comment thread though 😉
I’m just here to say that regarding the proposed idea of a noartpunk competition in which you use spells in a creative way, I don’t think I’m going to finish in time. It hasn’t even been announced yet but looking at what I currently have done and what I’d need to do suggests that it’s not looking likely
I wouldn’t worry overmuch, the way things are looking, I’m probably going to do the vanilla format this time around, in which case your regular entry shall be perfectly acceptable. Do not despair!