Thursday, December 12, 2013

It's Easy to Forget

So often when I'm reading blogs I find myself forgetting that we're essentially an niche market, and a highly nuanced niche market at that. Now you could argue that essentially we're all the same hobby and that there isn't that big of a difference between us, but you're wrong.

But we're all playing role-playing games!

Yes, yes we are; which is why we're all lumped into the same niche market: the RPG Market. But where things get more difficult is when you start asking people what they play. Let's look at me, for example, I tend to play Third Edition Dungeons and Dragons, but Three point Five Dungeons and Dragons rather than the original set with an emphasis on the world of Greyhawk, and not modern Greyhawk but the Greyhawk that came out when Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was still being actively produced. A buddy of mine will only play Fourth Edition, by which he means the first three books but only without the initial flood of errata as that tended to weaken the system rather than enhancing it; and he'll only play in the world of Eberron, though not in the one published during Fourth Edition as the original setting book published under Third Edition really gave the setting a better treatment and he doesn't mean any of those supplemental books as that shit is just cray - his word, not mine. 

But those are different editions, surely the guys playing the same edition aren't as finicky?

You'd think that wouldn't you, but you'd be wrong. Just look at the OSR movement. Lots of great products out there but you'll find people arguing over which version of Basic to use like it mattered. Whether you're using Holmes, Moldvay (my personal preference), or Mentzer you're talking about the same game with minor changes. 

Whoa, now. Holmes was the superior version of the three . . .

See I don't care. 

When we begin to break our hobby apart in that fashion we're not strengthening it; and we're not being more 'pure' or 'true' to the source materials, we're being dicks. If you love Basic and it rocks your face off then wear that shit out. Play your favorite version and let the other guy enjoy his because in the end they're the same game. 

Only they aren't. Not to us at any rate. 

As a hobby, and as a community, we have invested a ridiculous amount of time and energy into proving that our internal visions for the hobby are righteous and true. Just look in your reading queue (if you need some help developing one try The Great Blog Roll Call), you'll find people playing Adventurer Conqueror King; Lamentations of the Flame Princess; Swords and Wizardry; Basic - Holmes, Moldvay, or Mentzer; Original Dungeons and Dragons - with or without supplemental materials; Rifts; GURPS; Third Edition Dungeons and Dragons; Fourth Edition Dungeons and Dragons; Fourth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Essentials; and the list goes on, and on, and on.

And it is fine that we're nuanced. 

Hell it's provided us with some amazing blogs where people are putting out an unbelievable amount of creative material to support their vision of how a role-playing game should be. 

I feel a 'but' coming on

But when we forget that we're nuanced it creates a situation where arrogance can seep in. Where we forget that this hobby is small and that our internal vision for the game isn't the same for everyone else. We'll go out there and develop egos that we can't back up and pretend like when we get snide on the internet that we're the same way in real life. Only you can't be because someone would knock you out for talking to them with that tone. 

Yet it's so easy to become insular with the internet and to believe that you have a more powerful voice than you do. You can look at your page views and say, "100,000 people have visited my blog. I have an audience who values my voice and hangs on my every word. I've had 2,000 commenters who have voiced their support. I must be right."

Only you're not. 

You've fooled yourself into believing a lie: that your nuanced view is the one true way to play a game and that once you publish your book on the subject the hobby, nay the world, will see the light! Only you've forgotten that we don't care about your vision for the hobby because I'm playing 3.5, and Mark's playing Pathfinder, and Courtney's playing an Advanced/Hackmaster hybrid of her own design, and David's playing Fourth Edition. And while I'm sure your book will be nice; you've spent the better part of the last two years shouting at the world that we're all morons and your vision is the only way.

So none of us buy your book. 

It's easy to forget that this hobby is nuanced and limited. That we're all trading ideas back and forth and hoping that we're right and that someone will love our idea enough to publish it. But in the end we all have to remember that no matter how great we are on-line in our insular communities, that this hobby, this market place, is incredibly small and very competitive.

So don't be a dick.


  1. This is a great post! You're right, of course; the tribalism in gaming in strong.

    1. Which is so odd for a hobby where the maxim is most often: Do your own thing.

  2. I have absolutely never understood “edition wars.” I can see how players become attached to what they know and what they have played for years. A comfort level with the rules is a great thing. If I was playing AD&D 2nd ed for five years and the GM came in one day and said, “Hey everybody were going to convert all our characters to Hero Fantasy!” I might have a few questions myself. I would never flatly refuse to play a game o play with a group because I thin edition X is so much better than edition Y, in my view that's the definition of “cray.”
    However at the end of the day I (in my admittedly naive way) look at the RPG community as a big group of friends I just haven't met yet. So in the end of the day I will play what ever the game master brings to the table.

  3. I think I might still be playing Swords and Wizardy, with psionics from MF/LL, morale is a monster stat in line with BECM era D&D, I use a genericish save system that mimics d20 era F/R/W, a point bout tiered skill system, and all custom classes with a spell that takes 2 3rd party lists and slams them together.
    All the choices out there and all the styles (and blogs) are an awesome smorgashborg its just silly to stick with one small subset as the one true way.

    1. I agree with you completely, which is why it always leaves me scratching my head when someone goes off the rails and starts talking about how their way is correct and the rest of us are fools.

  4. Rule #1 of being a human person - Don't be a dick.

    Confession - I used to be a bit of an edition warrior. I didn't flame strangers on the inter-webs or anything, but nevertheless, I really didn't like 3e when it came out. I thought it was power-gamish and not good and totally unnecessary. I told people all about it. I now realize that I just didn't want to play a game of heroes becoming super-heroes (3e+). I liked my 2e game of regular(ish) people becoming heroes. (Fun fact, I have like no desire to play 2e anymore.)

    It's totally ok to tell people about what, how, and why you play. You might actually get somebody interested in your way of doing things; you could possibly even find a new friend or somebody to game with. It's also ok to express why you don't care for something.

    However, telling people that they're "doing it wrong" is purely masturbatory. You're not going to change their mind with an attack, and the only people that will like what you're doing are folks already doing it your way. Totally without purpose. (Unless you're just trying to piss people off. In which case, you are a dick. See rule #1.)

    1. So did you end up liking third or did you move on to another version of the game?

    2. Actually, I developed my own game.

      I'm still not fond of 3rd ed. It's more convoluted than I prefer, far too many +1s to fiddle with. I like my games clean and simple. I also dislike gridded combat, so ya, it's not the dnd for me.

      Other than my own stuff, Cosmic Patrol, Savage Worlds, Traveller, Lamentations of the Flame Princess are the games I've played recently.

  5. It's good to take a step back and refocus every once in a while. We're a small hobby, no need to let egos and minutia-based-superiority fracture it anymore than need be.

    That being said some heated arguments have turned into some very thought-provoking exercises that make you reexamine the core elements of how we play. The Quantum Ogre conundrum immediately springs to mind in that regard.

    1. What is the Quantum Ogre? I keep hearing about it and I just haven't had time to look into it.

    2. Hoo boy this took a while to dredge up. Here's a good Summary post:

      The heat of the debate can be found on Hackslashmaster and KORPG, links are included in the summary. Regardless of your position on the matter the entire debate was worth reading.

      I personally enjoyed the discussion presented over on Random Wizard's blog. Summary:

    3. Thank you so much for finding all that! I'm off to read about it now.


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