Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Well, I tried to type this in the comments to a post on another  blog.  It's not working.  Apparently I'm too long-winded or something.  So, I'm posting the comment here, and I'll link to this post.

For those of you who read my blog otherwise (Hi, Mom--I know you're my only reader)... just ignore this post or something.  Sorry.  The post I'm responding to is here:

I liked watching (or listening, I admit that I opened up some other windows on top of it and did some work) for it's own sake. Sure, reading and listening/watching are two different experiences. But seriously; is anyone worried about slow or metered connections anymore to the point where they can't watch Youtube? What is this, 1996? I think at this point, if someone can't watch a youtube vlog, then they'll just have to accept that they're going to miss out on stuff. Youtube's a pretty darn mainstream format for content delivery these days.

To make a post that's a little less light on meaningful content, I think that this type of vlog discussion is part of the reason that the OSR is often stigmatized by many for being too reverential, and going through a kind of "this is the way Gary did it, so it's the One True Way to play the game." Whether or not that's fair (and it probably isn't, really) vlogs like this still perpetuate that view. It's one thing to like the same kinds of stories that Gary did, but to pronounce that their PRIMARY MERITS are that Gary liked them and based some element of D&D on them doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in the analysis of the books.

I DON'T like a lot of the material that Gary liked, and that he used to base elements of the game on. I like a lot of stuff that Gary couldn't have read, because it didn't come along until long after he wasn't involved in D&D anymore. Then again, maybe I'm not the right person to be commenting here, because frankly, I don't know how much I like D&D itself really. I love fantasy gaming, but D&D--as you say in the vlog--is very specific about a lot of things, and those are often the things that I dislike, because they don't resemble the things that I like in fantasy literature, which was ultimately my avenue into gaming. HOWEVER, I think it's perfectly within the Old School way of thought to houserule the heck out of my games to get them to provide the experience that *I personally* want from the game.

But I guess that's where I often find myself--not exactly at odds, because it doesn't bother me in the least that people do this--but scratching my head at commentary from the OSR. There's not necessarily a lot of discussion that goes something like this: "I'm doing this because I like it, and it brings xyz to the game that I think is really cool." Rather, there's more commentary like this than I expect: "I'm doing this because Gary did it this way, or because the sword & sorcery literature that Gary liked was done this way. No comment whatsoever on what I like or why. Not clear if I'm gaming because I like it, or if its some kind of ritualistic recreation of my best estimate of a Gygaxian gaming ideal." Again; I'm probably vastly overstating that tone from the OSR. The OSR is clearly a big, sprawling thing with all kinds of people who like it for all kinds of reasons. But I'm a bit surprised that that sentiment exists at all, sometimes. I just can't figure out why it's relevant. I don't care what Gary liked or what Gary read. I care about what *I* like and what I've read. I'd like to see stuff discussed on its own merits, not simply held out as "this must be good *a priori* because Gary liked it, or because it was foundational to D&D" or whatever.

Again to clarify; I don't mean this as a complaint. Even if someone is merely joylessly and ritualistically trying to recreate Gary Gygax's prototype 1974 gaming experience from right as the game was being published or whatever; that's fine, if that's what they want to do. However, I just don't find that a very compelling argument on why to do something or why to read something, or why the game should be carefully maintained a certain way, or whatever--and I do think that there's a surprising amount of that tone in OSR discussions, which I find turns me off somewhat.

However... I do find it amusing that two grognards are arguing on how to pronounce grognard. For what it's worth, I know that in French it's pronounced somewhat like groan-YAR, but I also agree that in ENGLISH it would be pronounced as it looks--grog-nard. :)


Jack said...

Hi Joshua! Since it's my blog you linked, I thought I'd stop by and talk about this. Oddly, I didn't find the vlog that Martin did to be too reverential. To me, it just seemed like he was excited to trace the connections.

To be perfectly honest, I've always thought the reading list in B/X is far superior to the one in Appendix N; it has a wider breadth of fantasy, and offers more varied points of inspiration.

I'm in total agreement that the "ritual re-enactment" aspect of the OSR is a bit joyless. But then, I assume you've read my blog before and know that I'm coming at D&D from a very different set of ideas than the ones Gygax set down in the DMG.

Joshua Dyal said...

I agree, and I was struggling with how to write that post and not sound like I'm condemning him for perpetuating some kind of flaw or something, which was not at all my intent. I probably didn't quite get it right.

I actually don't remember the B/X reading list. Now I'm going to have to head off to Google and see what it was. I certainly played a bit of B/X in the day, and if I were to play an older version of D&D or a retroclone, I'd almost certainly look to that rather than to OD&D or AD&D... but there being a reading list included as completely slipped my mind.

Martin Brown said...

Sorry you felt that way, it's not the intent at all and we'll never go into anything other than the roots of the hobby via research - it's either not known by new gamers or has been forgotten or replaced with a pseudo history. We're more the history channel for RPGs than anything - I actually couldn't care less for a lot of 'old school' stuff, but I'm going to document it.

Anyway - I'm interviewing Rob Kuntz on the channel this coming Friday at 11pm GMT. We may not be able to please everyone, but we go to the horses mouth and get our information from the people that were there. Also an interview with the new TSR.

It's a bit more than a VLOG about OSR guys - we're only a couple of videos in, give us time to get going and you're going to see stuff that can't happen in any other medium :)

Just to clarify - I have no reverence for 'the way it was done' as most people seem to think of it. I'm in it for the archaeology of it and the discussion :)

Joshua Dyal said...

Which, if you think about it, is a kind of eccentric point of view... but one that I can understand completely. Again; not meant as a criticism, just an observation about OSR-ish topics in toto.

In any case, as an avid fan of both history and archeology, I can dig your purpose there. I wonder how many viewers will approach it in that vein? I suppose it's neither here nor there.

In any case, before this devolves into a mutual love-fest because I'm bending over backwards to tell you how much I get it, I'll point out that I think Michael Moorcock's writing is execrable to the point of being nearly unreadable. ;)

Then again, I'm not British, and my understanding is that you really can't have been a British fantasy fiction fan of a certain generation and not been highly exposed to Michael Moorcock as one of the pillars of the genre.

Martin Brown said...

That made me laugh on the excrement comment :)

The point of Appendix N is to go make your own Appendix N, not to slavishly copy it. I'm enjoying tracing the roots back and I'm going to have to cover things I love and elements that I frankly despair of, but it would be biased and unfair to not take an objective view for the videos themselves.

I think my own Appendix N would feature Terry Pratchett!

I'm going into GDW, Metagaming Concepts, Flying Buffalo and all of the guys that were there in the first wave and then moving onto the second wave of companies too. I'm beginning with TSR, but this is very narrow and doesn't do justice the remaining foundation of the hobby with Runequest, Tunnels and Trolls and all the other people, companies and games.

I don't know if you saw the introduction video?

It's hopefully clearer as to where it's all going in that video.

Joshua Dyal said...

No, actually I only saw that video. I've meant to go look for more, but haven't had time yet. Nothing like starting from the beginning!