As the proprietor of the the RPGsite, creator of the new OSR game Arrows of Indra, a thriving blog, and a consultant on the newest edition of Dungeons and Dragons it could be argued that the RPG Pundit has never had a wider sphere of influence or been more important in the hobby. With his increased prominence, however, have come controversies as adversaries old and new have made serious charges against him in a concerted effort to stymie his rise.
To his friends the RPG Pundit is a clarion call in the wilderness of the internet, caustically fighting against those who argue that we should wage our societal battles over our games by projecting issues onto them. To his critics he is a Machiavellian troll that uses every occasion to manufacture a reputation built on intimidation and harassment. They point to his use of hyperbolic language as an indictment of the man and to minimize his role in the hobby. Yet with all the effort that has been expended on maligning the Pundit he has continued to grow the RPGsite and to thrive where few others could have hoped. To better understand this controversial figure I asked him for an interview and he graciously consented.
DYVERS: Since taking over the RPGsite you've often been recognized as both one of the great voices for liberty by allowing most any topic associated with role-playing games to be discussed, and harshly criticized for not tightly controlling what is discussed on the site. How have you been able to ensure that the RPGsite has had such free reign and have you ever regretted your decision to let it be so free-wheeling?
RPGPundit: It's fairly simple really. I wanted a group about RPG discussion. I don't feel the need to engage in petit-powermongering, unlike the admins of most rpg-related forums who enjoy controlling other peoples' lives in the most meaningless way possible as some misguided attempt to alleviate a sense of meaninglessness in their own lives. I have, in other words, the courage of my convictions. Many of my opponents talk about being 'inclusive', but their idea of that word seems very funny to me: they are only 'inclusive' of anyone who does not directly disagree with them.
Over on theRPGsite, ANYONE can come and post. We ban people only for what amounts to "site disruption", not for the subject matter or ideological slant of their posting content. So the only people who get banned there are people who post illegal material, or engage in activity like spam-posting, person-stalking or off-topic-posting through multiple threads, because we will not have literal sabotage of the site. But in respect to IDEAS, theRPGsite is the only really Inclusive place for gamers to talk. And the proof of that is in how there are people there who've racked up literally tens of thousands of posts over the past near-decade who have routinely and regularly called me an asshole and like just about everything I disagree with in RPGs. And they know they post there without fear of reprisals.
DYVERS: I mentioned in the introduction that your use of caustic and hyperbolic language has often been a source of consternation for your critics. They tend to see comments like "Bruce Baugh can go Fuck Himself with a Spoon" as the sort of language that drives people away from the hobby and stifles their ability to fully participate therein. Given that speaking so brashly is going to antagonize these people do you ever find yourself second thinking the use of such phrases? Do you view their criticisms on the language you use as valid? If not, why?
RPGPundit: I would think that the things that would drive people away from the hobby are things like Bruce Baugh deciding that its ok for him to intentionally and with full premeditation make up lies about someone being a homophobe, in an effort to sabotage the latest edition of D&D, and then do everything he can in order to cover up any proof against or denunciation of his lies.
That's why Bruce Baugh can go fuck himself with a spoon. If anything, I was too kind, because at the time of writing that article (when Bruce Baugh was only busy deciding he could intentionally ruin an RPG because he though the fans of those rpgs should be "punished" for liking such a childish game), I had no idea the depths of just how immense a sack of putrid shit the man is.
DYVERS: Your critics often bring up your use of the word "swine" for those you disagree with as a reason why you shouldn't have any validity attached to your criticisms and that people shouldn't attempt to engage in civil discourse with you. Sage Latorra actually went so far as to write an article, Swine Flew, where he picked a series of quotes from your use of the term to demonstrate why your involvement in any company was reason enough not support them by purchasing their products. It's almost as though they have taken the term as an insult on level with a racial epithet and not as the rather innocuous insult it appears to be to me. When you began using the term what significance did you intend for it to impart to your readers, and did you intend for it to take on the greater significance that it has? Have you found that using the term has limited your ability to participate in discussions outside of the RPGsite?
RPGPundit: Sage Latorra was understandably upset that Wizards of the Coast wanted their next edition of D&D to be ideologically influenced by someone like me (whose analysis of the RPG scene has been proven right time and time again) rather than a neo-Forge-theorist like himself (who have always gotten absolutely everything wrong about what makes RPGs successful, and whose ideas were part of the relative failure of 4e D&D). But of course, it’s more useful for them to use "he uses bad language and is mean to people" rather than "he disagrees with what we think should happen to RPGs and we want to stop him" as a rallying cry, you get more people behind you if you make it about niceness than about ideology. But at least, back then, you could say that to Latorra's credit that he didn't engage in doxxing (unlike many of the other people on his side who would later attack me and others in the 'consultantgate' fiasco), and at least, even though it wasn't his real primary motive for trying to have me fired from WoTC, most of what he was saying in that article is technically true: I DO use bad language and I am mean to my opponents (though who the fuck knows why that should in any way have anything to do with my qualifications in game criticism, design and consulting? - since when do we need people to always be 'nice' as well as being great at something??). So yes, on the scale of elementary-school morality of telling on the teacher because Billy said a dirty word, Sage Latorra at least wasn't lying; you can't say the same about almost anyone else on the Outrage Brigade during the later 'consultantgate' thing, where they posted brutal, blatant and horrific lies about me as soon as they realized "but he's a big meanie and we just don't like him!" wasn't going to convince anyone I'm technically unqualified for the job I was given.
So people who've never actually talked to me personally before sometimes do approach me with a wrong idea about me, but that's not because of "swine", it’s because of all the LIES the Swine regularly and repeatedly make up about me in an effort to stop me from getting in their way.
DYVERS: Over the last few years you have increasingly become a favorite target of, as you are so fond of calling them, the Social Justice Warriors. What really kicked off this animosity? Was it the fallout from James Desborough's In Defense of Rape article and your very public defense of him (see For Pseudo-Activists, Lying About Rape Threats is OK if its "for the cause" for more) that brought their attention or had you already been a target before that incident?
RPGPundit: Sorry, first I have to clear something up. I almost NEVER call them "Social justice warriors". That's a stupid term and it utterly fails to describe what these people are; calling them that suggests they actually really fight for social justice, which would be a wonderful thing and not an insult at all.
DYVERS: With the release of Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons your name was revealed as one of the consultants - something that you had discussed beforehand and that your critics openly called you a liar over - and many of your former antagonists took the opportunity to claim you were a bigot who had consistently attempted to drive people from the hobby through harassment and intimidation. At the time it seemed that many of them believed that if they put enough pressure on you and Wizards of the Coast that your name would be taken out of the books and that you would cower before them. After witnessing some of what you went through I've been curious to know how you were able to withstand their attacks, and often outright lies, about you? Considering what you went through did you ever contemplate giving up and walking away from the RPGsite, from your blog, or from the hobby as a whole?
The Pseudo-activists almost can't help but LIE, because they can barely understand the concept of what "true" is anymore. And thus, they dug their own grave by the torrent of lies they vomited out about me (and another consultant, and some other opponents of theirs in the hobby). The end result of what they did was to bring attention to me, make me more famous, double my blog readership, make me more money, and utterly and totally discredit themselves. There are now links and records kept of all the times they've lied (The latter being necessary because the pseudo-activists have often tried to go back and delete or edit stuff to hide when they've been caught out in a lie), and we've set up a permanent thread on theRPGsite (see This is Why We Don't Like You for more) in order to show a permanent and immutable record of cases where these Swine have been caught out in lying, general misbehavior and even clearly conspiring to make up lies about their opponents.
DYVERS: Moving on from the difficulties you've experienced in recent years I'd like to talk about Arrows of Indra. I don't recall ever seeing another game set in India and until your game appeared it had never occurred to me how fascinating a campaign set there could be. How did working on this game compare to your previous projects? Was it more satisfying creatively? How has it performed compared to your previous projects?
RPGPundit: I'm really glad you like AoI. And yes, India is a fascinating source of adventuring material, with Arrows of Indra touching only a small part of the vast wealth of legends and mythology there.
DYVERS: What went into your decision to publish the game through Bedrock Games as opposed to self-publishing the game?
RPGPundit: I've never published any of my games. I don't believe in that. It’s a bullshit idea that some Swine came up with a decade ago that said "everyone MUST publish their own games!", as if that makes your game better or makes you a better person for doing so.
Now, if you want to publish your own games, great. Go wild. But the idea that I, who am a great writer but in no way a great editor, layout man, artist, businessman or computer whiz, should have to do all the work myself to get some kind of bullshit indie hipster-cred is just moronic. I would much rather take advantage of my relative fame to team up with tried and tested publishers (like Flying Mice, Precis Intermedia, Bedrock Games, or DOM publishing -- Swine: there's an enemies - list for you, go out and whine about how bad they are so that they all get a lot of attention and money!) who actually know what they're doing, and want to work together with me to make a superior product.
DYVERS: In some of the reviews for Arrows of Indra I have seen comments that the game's setting feels more like an Indian's view on their popular history of India as opposed to the actual history. Do you feel that this is an accurate reading of your game?
RPGPundit: I hadn't actually read that before, its a pretty fascinating assessment. I can see some of his point of view. Arrows of Indra is NOT based on "actual history". It is based on Epic Indian Myth. Because of course actual history did not have flying chariots and arrows that could blow up cities and poison-spitting seven-headed giant snakes. But furthermore, it didn't have the civilizations (or at least not the grandiose and epic civilizations) that the Mahabharata depicts.
I would disagree, though, about the part about male-oriented. It's true that I didn't make up some class or rules for a "respectable female Noble" class or something like that, though really there's nothing to stop someone playing one, or even making up said class, hopefully without resorting to cheap social-mechanic rules. But I made a point of making the AoI setting one where female characters could theoretically take up any adventuring class, and could with relative ease handle certain ones (and a non-evil witch would, pretty obviously, just be a female Siddhi/magic-user character). Yes, it's not strictly culturally accurate, because you don't see Radha or Queen Kunti going around slaughtering asuras with a bow, but it seems wrongheaded to say that I've just ignored women because I figured it would be more fun for women to get to go out and fight monsters instead of sitting around the court showing how respectable they are (in MOST campaigns; of course, in some campaigns you could make it all about everyone sitting around the court trying to act respectable!).
DYVERS: While the Arrows of Indra is an OSR game, and can easily be converted to other OSR style games, I have to ask if you have any plans on taking the setting and modifying it for use with other systems that might not be as compatible, such as Fifth Edition D&D or Pathfinder?