Friday, October 19, 2012

Well That Was A Long Time Wasn't It

First off, did you know I actually won an SA design contest for my diceless time travel game Retrocausality? It's true! (at the time of writing I think the paywall is up, but I might throw this up elsewhere.)

Second, worse and even less important news! Due to a whole bunch of stuff coming up in my offline life and some online shenanigans on the side, I am going to go ahead and lay this blog to rest for now. Don't worry, it's all good things. Among other things, I am now somehow a moderator at that Orwellian clusterfuck of a forum RPG.net. (Don't tell them I said that.) Hopefully the "he's a secret goon 4channer Stalinist storygamer troll who has it in for (insert shitty game designer here)!" conspiracy theories are better this time.

Also, check it out! You might like it, despite that time I slagged it off a year or two ago. (PS: Don't tell them.)

Anyway, yeah. Anyone who doesn't already have my deets can reach me at the Something Awful forums, the sup/tg/ IRC or RPG.net any time they want. (If you want to call me a cunt with impunity avoid the one I moderate, obviously.)

The blogosphere has enough unfunny idiots droning on about minor RPG shit once every two months. You'll live.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In Which James Desborough Is An Incredibly Sad Man

If you're expecting a followup to that game design contest stuff, it's coming! In the meantime, let's talk about "In Defence of Rape" by James Desborough.

Don't read too much into the title, it is shock bait. The actual article is a defense of rape as a plot device, which is kind of like walking through a minefield with a blindfold and a jackhammer. Read through it and form your own opinion if you like; this is less about the article and more about how Desborough is a manchild.

For example, did you know he has a persecution complex? It is actually kind of hilarious. The dude wants a reputation as an edgy iconoclast who thrives despite being censored by THE MAN so badly he can taste it. If trying to shock people for attention nets him any consequences or criticism, though, watch the fuck out because it's time for an angry post, usually one trying to conflate his cause with an unrelated one!

Banned from RPGnet? WHY DO YOU THINK I'M WORSE THAN HITLER??? I'll get you, RPGnet moderators!

His friend Uri (a lying nationalist who also desperately wants to be an internet martyr) gets banned from RPGnet after posting a map of a fantasy Israel with a racist Palestinian caricature? HE WAS BANNED FOR BEING JEWISH!

A creepy card game about tentacle rape gets pulled off Kickstarter? this is just like the persecution of LGBT people! CENSORSHIP!

Wait, people criticised my post on Twitter? WHY DO YOU SUPPORT CENSORSHIP?

Of course he'll probably get hard just reading this post, but apparently this guy's post has already set off Operation Rape Martyr and part of an old review of one of his works I wrote has already got him posting dumb shit, so I guess it can't hurt!

Anyway, this post! Like I said, I'm not going to bother breaking it all down - look at it yourself, check the comments, do some reading. What I am going to argue, though, is this:

Rape could, hypothetically, be used as a plot device. I can't actually think of any examples off the top of my head that aren't horrible (certainly not in the RPG community, which still has massive issues with objectification of women), but I am prepared to believe that somewhere in this world is someone that can write something about rape that isn't garbage.

The problem is, most people who think they are qualified to do so are wrong. Just look at CthulhuTech (or better yet, my ongoing review on SA), or Dominic Deegan (links to the SA Deegan thread because fuck making people go to his website).

Very few people who think they can do it are right, and they sure as fuck aren't James Desborough.

What makes me think that? Well, a lot of things, but let's go with something from that old post of mine he was crying about because I'm lazy. A long time ago Desborough wrote Encyclopaedia Arcane: Nymphology , a joke book about sex. Now, raunchy comedy in an RPG work is something I can also kinda see, but unfortunately Desborough knows more about misogyny, homophobia and cries for attention than he does about jokes, so that kind of fell flat.

Let's see what Desborough thinks would be funny to write about!

Summon Sex Partner

This spell summons a creature and binds them into your presence or that of a client long enough for a sexual act to take place. The creature summoned may not be entirely willing (some are) but is bound by the magic of the spell to do what is required and cannot return to their home save by fulfilling the demands of the spell. Beware of meeting a previously summoned creature outside the context of the spell or you may well be in trouble.





Huge surprise: Turns out the guy crying about "rape culture" and insisting that he doesn't trivialise rape decided it would be hilarious to write up a spell for a comedy book that lets you summon sentient creatures (or an animate table) and force them to have sex with you. No trivialising for Desborough, no sir! Only the finest, deepest, most "awesome" uses of rape for him!

Holy shit, James. Are you twelve?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ryan Dancey Is Basically A Con Artist

The best news I've heard all month: Paizo Goblinworks has a Kickstarter!

A recap: Six months ago, Paizo hired Ryan Dancey, brains behind the OGL, who had just left his position as Chief Marketing Officer of CCP (developers of EVE Online) coincidentally around the same time CCP had a marketing debacle so bad the CEO had to apologise to their customers. Also completely coincidentally, Dancey had convinced Paizo that what they really needed was a sandbox MMO. All they need are a few little things like staff, investors, a few hundred thousand dollars.

A few months and approximately zero dollars later, Dancey needs your help! Enter this Kickstarter, which asks for $50,000 for... a technology demo that he can show to investors.

So, a funding drive for a funding drive.

Dancey can write a strong opener, at least. The pitch basically begins with Paizo taking credit for Vampire and Magic: The Gathering. Smooth! Also, did you know Ryan Dancey is the Steve Jobs of MMO marketing? I mean I would have gone with Kevin Siembieda personally, but I have a soft spot for the guy and Steve Jobs' career has the same future prospects so let's roll with it.

The meat of every Kickstarter lies in the rewards, though. What have we got?

At the basic $5 level, you get "an exclusive long video of the final Technology Demo." So basically, a Let's Play of a tech demo of an unfinished MMO. If that sounds anything like "We get to watch the game in action!" to you, well, here's the tech demo for Doom. Tip: It's not called a "content demo".

Oh yeah, and according to the FAQ, they're releasing most of the video for free anyway.

At $15 you get a 64-page PDF of a book about a city they're going to use in the game, and I am so glad the cover art is only a mockup because what the Christ. Also, half of those pages aren't actually gaming stuff, but "written by our Pathfinder Online design team, letting you into Goblinworks’ design philosophy and giving you inside information gleaned from the development of our technology preview." What fucking inside information? Dancey's magical adventures convincing Lisa Stevens to write him more paychecks while he workshops vaporware?

At $100 you get a Goblinworks t-shirt. There's no picture of the t-shirt.

At $250, you become a "Goblinworks Founder", which means you get a certificate and a special icon on the Goblinworks messageboards. You know, to make sure people on AND offline know you're a fucking idiot.

At $1,000, you get to actually play Pathfinder Online! By which I mean playtest the alpha. You do get to give "direct input on how Pathfinder Online ends up looking and playing", though! Wow! They sure are listening to the fans!

(You know what they call people who give input on how games end up looking and playing? Playtesters.)

At $2,000, and yes these are still going, you'll get to play the technology demo itself! Wow! Not only that, but you'll do it at Goblinworks HQ, where you get to hang out with Paizo for the day! Lunch is included, even! Not lodging and transport, though, which you will have to pay for yourself. Also, if you can't make the day they pick, too fucking bad.

Finally, at $5,000 (Jesus Christ), you and five friends (or five people from Paizo if you have no friends, and let's face it, you just ponied up $5,000 to fund a technology demo of a vaporware MMO based off a Dungeons & Dragons knockoff) will play an RPG for 5 hours with a celebrity GM of your choice! While I would definitely pay money to roll with Rich Baker (dude did 7th Edition Gamma World, come on), I wouldn't pay $5,000 for the privilege. There's more, though! That evening, you'll get to eat dinner with Ryan Dancey, Lisa Stevens and your celebrity GM!

(Transportation and lodging is your problem.)

And at the time of writing, someone already backed this. Someone actually gave Dancey $5,000 to promise to maybe promise to make an MMO later.

Hell, the entire fucking thing is paid for. Right now, 1,232 backers have pledged ~$77,000 to keep alive Dancey's vaporware dreams for a bunch of rewards which mostly boil down to "we will give you a thing that says you donated". There's already a  new video in which Dancey actively encourages people to keep donating. Why, though? I mean, he explicitly said this Kickstarter was for the tech demo only and not an MMO he can't promise he'll deliver yet (because it's fucking vaporware), so I guess extra money goes to the tech demo?

"If additional funding from the Kickstarter won't go towards making the demo bigger, what will it be used for? We're glad you asked! Extra funding will allow us to bring more resources to the table faster. We may be able to accelerate our hiring plan, and begin the task of expanding the work we're doing to create the technology demo into the alpha version of the game. And, of course, the more money we raise, the better Pathfinder Online looks to investors!"

Or I guess Dancey and Goblinworks are skimming the excess. That's cool too.

Oh, and there's a stretch goal now! Sort of. Actually, instead of a new money target, they're shooting for number of backers - Dancey wants to point to this Kickstarter and say "Look how many people want this MMO to happen!". (Personally I am incredibly skeptical that a few thousand Pathfinder fans, at least some of which must be backing just for the PDF, translate to a sustainable MMO base but hey whatever, I'm not Steve Jobs.)

You know what, though? I hope he succeeds. I hope it gets more backers. I even hope Kickstarter doesn't shut this down despite the RPG.net posters reporting it for basically exploiting the letter of Kickstarter's guidelines to bilk Pathfinder fans. I hope this tech demo gets released and everyone gets to watch their glorious Youtube of a generic fantasy dungeon made with outdated middleware on a shoestring budget, and think "fans paid tens of thousands of dollars for this".

Hell, you know what? I hope someone invests in this, at least enough to keep this going another six months. This is a fucking hilarious schadenfreude clusterfuck. Start another Kickstarter if you have to.

I want to see this lumbering monster shamble through the Internet like an octopus who has somehow found a way to become morbidly obese, prolonging its inevitable collapse as long as it can. I want to see the fans who seriously sank hundreds, even thousands of dollars into this fucking thing cling to it as long as possible, convincing themselves this is totally going to happen any day now and sinking hundreds more.

I want to see the fanbase's reaction when they can't prop it up any longer and the project finally goes down, taking their money with it.

Keep going, Pathfinder Online. I love you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

SA Design Contest - Rambling Horseshit


I am going into this with no idea how I'm actually going to do this. That's cool though! I'm just going to hash things out in big wordy posts and hope I don't turn into an Ideas Guy.
So, this is basically a game about being a precursor civilisation that ruins everything - basically making fun of a gentle ribbing a heartwarming love letter to a common sci-fi theme. What do I want out of it?

• Fun. (hurrr ima gaem deingsiner)
• It has to be simple enough to be run online. (Most of my games are over IRC and I doubt I can get a game going locally, which rules out certain kinds of dice tricks.)
• It has to be broad enough for individual games to use whatever references they like (like if one guy wants to make fun of Mass Effect, another guy wants to be the Yith and another wants to do something weird with energy beings and megastructures they can all do that.)
• It has to be easy to play. I am not making a game about micromanaging alien fleets while harvesting vespene gas.
• I want the players to be able to play whatever they want, from libertarian fungus colonies to humans with funny ears.
• I want the players to customise the "galaxy" they play in, so galaxy creation should be involved.
• I want the players to interact with each other, whether by interstellar war or diplomacy or whatever.

And on the subject of theme, what are these alien dudes going to get up to anyway?

• Seeding worlds with life
• Encouraging the development of civilisation with monoliths and whatever
• Sealing away ancient evils
• Creating ancient evils
• Leaving powerful artifacts in tombs and shit (probably weapons for shooting the evils)
• Leave traps to kill people because fuck you, that's why
• Killing you with synthetics
• Going into hibernation/hiding, intending to murder or enslave everyone later
• Making records of history (for bonus points, Be The Yith)
• Embedding themselves in mythology as gods because why not
• Leaving travel networks
• Ascending to higher planes of existences
• Getting themselves murdered by shoggoths
• Fucking with people

Actually, that's giving me an idea, so I think I'll work out the broad strokes of:


Character creation!

This isn't going to be a crunchy system, but there should be some rules. Looking that list gives me an idea: What if one of the defining features of your race is how they intend to leave a lasting legacy? I think it could be divided into several categories: Those that want to create things (particularly life), those that want to destroy things, and those that just want to change what's there to their liking. If I rearrange the list we'd get:

DESTROY: Leaving traps, planning to return and kill everyone, leaving synthetics to kill everyone

CHANGE: Monoliths and whatever, sealing ancient evils, leaving artifacts in tombs and shit, making records, embedding in mythology

CREATE: Gene seeding, creating evils, shoggoths, travel networks

Some of those seem like they could be in either (travel networks could go under "change" and "create" could mean creating and leaving technology behind, for example), but for the moment what I am working with is that "create" means massive, sweeping and potentially galaxy-changing projects, while "change" involves smaller tweaks - for example, creating entire alien species and seeding the galaxy with them is something much bigger than "dump some artifacts in the galaxy for some alien species to find and use later". Oh, and fuck alignments. You can be benevolent bumblers or tremendous assholes or something in between, I don't care. For now we'll use Create-Change-Destroy instead - the means rather than the ends, I guess.

So how do we use this? I am thinking that there's some possible crossover between these things - wanting to lay traps everywhere wouldn't stop you creating a travel network, for example - so it's best not to make players pick just one. I'm thinking you'd get some "points" to spread across them, to represent how into that particular method you are - something like "Create 3, Change 2, Destroy 1", or similar. As a bonus, this starts making me think about dice mechanics - maybe that determines how many dice you're allowed to roll for a particular action, or the size of your dice.

Speaking of actions, how about skills? Or some kind of character elements, at least. I'd like to be able to specify each race's strengths - do they create life? Invent technologies? Murder dudes? We're trying to represent an incredibly diverse range of aliens, too, so we want the skills to be broad as well. Let's also roll with this idea that you get to roll more dice (or use bigger numbers) for the things you're the best at, and skills are ranked like Create-Change-Destroy.

I could use the list of things aliens can get up to as the "skills" (plus anything else that seems like a good idea), and let the player describe the details. For example, let's say some hypothetical skills are "Life" (Creating life, obviously), "Sealing" (imprisoning races or evil beings or whatever) and "Superweapons" (leaving behind powerful weapons for others to use). I like that setup - the skills play off each other and make me think dealing with non-player life forms is going to be a big part of this game. One player could want to make a race of scientists who want to use the galaxy as an experiment and a test to breed the ultimate life form, seal undesirable elements away in time-slowed prison dimensions and set up automated defense networks to protect their assets forever. Some of their skills could be:

Ultimate Lifeform Experiment [Life] +3, Creating Prison Dimensions [Sealing] +1, Automated Defense Systems [Superweapons] +2

Another player could want the same skills but have different ideas:

Summoning Elder Evils [Life] +2, Prison Worlds [Sealing] +1, Weaponized Shoggoths [Superweapons] +3

Why engage in boring life experiments when you can summon the servants of Hastur, trap your enemies in prison worlds (or give your summoned horrors somewhere to sleep) and leave ways for everyone to destroy each other and hasten the arrival of the Old Ones?

I'm not sure how much else I can do there without hashing the dice mechanics, and I'm getting a bit tired anyway, so one last thing before I wrap up this waffling horseshit:

Empires or PCs?

At first I was going to have the PCs represent empires, but now I am getting some different ideas. Basically, I want the players to engage in social combat, something which might be tricky if there aren't any specific characters involved. I still want the actions of the empire to be at the forefront, though.

My current idea to fuse them is to begin with a "setup" phase where the PCs lay out the galaxy and how the race as a whole interacts with it, then move on into a "leader" phase, where the PCs roll as the rulers of their civilisation, chilling out on some kind of Space United Nations world and continuing to issue galaxy-changing orders while engaging in "diplomatic" social combat with their fellows and secure aid and bonuses. Depending on how the game is structured there may be multiple "leader" phases, but for first now I'm thinking of just one. Unless this is an awful idea, who knows!
Also I put this one up a little late and I have the dice mostly worked out, so expect that soon!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

SA Design Contest - Concept

Alright, so the short version: the Something Awful forums are having a sort of design contest, and I've decided to enter because why not! I will also dump my posts in this blog.

So, basically I need to design an RPG with competitive elements and some cool dice tricks. Also I need to do it in less than a month. Woo hoo!

My idea:

Assholes Among the Stars

The galaxy is young, and the players represent the first sentient life to spread across the galaxy. Those guys who normally appear in sci-fi RPGs as the amazingly advanced precursor civilisation that seeded worlds with life or planted portal networks or other amazing relics before disappearing? That's you. During the game each player's civilisation tries to leave behind just such a lasting legacy, and competes with the other players to see whose is the best.

In most sci-fi tales, though, the precursor races are either enormous assholes or even bigger fuckups. With that in mind the goal of this RPG is not to be the best, but to be the
least worst: the player who gets the closest to succeeding without actually doing so is the winner. The game is designed so that this may require fucking up your own plans - maybe that evil you sealed away isn't as sealed as you think, or your civilisation just straight-up goes into civil war mode and you lose a bunch of tech. It's not good for them, but it's good for you, provided you can push other players into failing even harder or - better yet - "help" them succeed. 

This should be fun. And by fun, I mean for everyone watching me crash and burn.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Magic Missigyny

So, Monte Cook posted a new Legends & Lore article! In Uniting the Editions, Part 3, he polls the community on features of old editions they'd like to appear in 5E D&D Next. Even ones he thinks are a bad idea! In his words:

"For example, it would be difficult to imagine that THAC0 would make a comeback. Armor Class values going down to represent them getting better. System shock rolls. Racial level limits. Gender-based ability score maximums. Lots of bonus types. And so on. But here's the thing: if I'm wrong about that, get involved in the open playtest when it starts and let us know. If you would like to see things like that be a part of the core rules set, or if you would use rules like that as optional modules, that's the kind of information we are looking for in order to make this a game you want to play."

Seriously though... scroll down and read that list. See if you can guess what's wrong with it!

No, no, I'll wait, it's cool.

A hint: It's got five words.

Worked it out yet?

Yeah, that's right: Magic Missiles that Never Miss.

What the fuck? Why would you even put that up as an option? Is this seriously something that the community needs to be polled on?

Look, that shit is amazing. When you cast magic missile, and it hits, which it always does, you feel absolutely fucking mondo. Why would you take that away? Magic Missile has never missed in every single edition that matters. Shit, look what happened when it did - in 4E that stupid immersion-breaking MMO-CCG power card quasi-narritivist disassociated sports game for dumb gamist babies, it became a situational spell nobody liked because nothing the Wizard could take to increase their damage actually worked on it when it mattered. Why would you want to go back to that?

Besides, what about verisimilitude? For the uninformed, verisimilitude (a subset of simmersionilitudism) is basically realism. And though we don't like to talk about it in today's "politically correct", it is a scientific fact that magic missiles never miss, that they're supposed to be cast by wizards. It's a historical fact that in past civilisations, magic missiles were treated as spells that never miss. You might not like it, but it happened, and they were cast by wizards. Is it really so bad to put that in a game for the sake of verisimilitude? No - I've gone into verisimilitudinous detail about the magical culture of the human tribes in my D&D setting, based off real-world history, and that doesn't make me some kind of spell-resistance-stacking missigynist who wants to cast magic missile all the time. Besides, I've included all sorts of other distasteful things for the sake of verisimilitude, like disease and child mortality rates (those who have read my multi-paragraph articles on the magical culture of my setting will know which footnote I'm talking about).

And you know what? Maybe you're a spell who doesn't want to never miss, and someone said to your face that magic missiles never miss. That's important to you, certainly. Important in a "that's a shame" kinda way. But you're implications are hyperbolic and there's no reason for you or anyone else to assume that other spells have had the same experiences and they are simply indicative of being a spell that deals force damage. The anecdote about your sorcerers in particular is not something that bears any relevance. you got prepared/cast by your caster. Yup. Everyone has. It's nothing to do with RPGs. The "villain" in that story seems to be your designer with her intent on imposing traditional spell role values.

Actually, fuck it. Look: many of you may be here in response to the banning of the vancian subcastits, looking for the next target of your ire. The fact is, you can take down an outlet, but you cannot take down a source. The source is wizards. As long as you are a magic missile spell, you will be smaller than us, weaker than us, and used by us to fulfill our desires (casting spells that don't miss). Subcastits like SRS attempt to soothe the cognitive dissonance created by this indisputable truth.

The idea that something was accomplished today is beyond idiotic. The fact remains that any time you appear on a scroll, any time you are seen by wizards, they objectify you, they hunger for you, they dream of writing you down and preparing you, and many of you will get the chance to let them act out those desires (to cast spells that never miss) before your time is through.

So let me say this clearly one more time: You. Are. Whores. Most of you just use your bodies for bartering as opposed to cash.

Magic Missile is supposed to never miss. End of story. What is even the point of putting such a stupid argument-igniting option on a poll if you're clearly not going to follow through on it?

UPDATE: Looks like the poll was taken down and Mearls posted a revised poll without the offending option and issued an apology. And there's no mention of gender-based ability score maximums either I guess.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Meet Some Of Your Fellow Designers!

So, by now you're aware 5E was announced. Well, they have the basics down and something you can playtest eventually, we probably won't see it for a year at the least and basically nothing is known about it whatsoever besides "playtest!", but holy shit, 5E! All those people who have been claiming 5E is just around the corner for seventeen months are finally right!
And they want you to playtest! That is like personally having a hand in designing the game! This is a glorious day for fans of Dungeons & Dragons! (Subtext: So shut the fuck up about how WotC isn't listening to you!)

Oh yeah, and you're teaming up to design a game with these entitled assholes:

The Bibliophobe
"ok so they change ALL the rules and FORCE you to have to buy all new books if you want to keep playing the game with new material? What they did was a scam, plain and simple and I have never forgiven them for that."

A new edition? Oh god! My books are going away! Sure, I'm playing an edition of tabletop game which has already received thousands of times more support than plenty of other good elfgames ever get, but if there aren't new, compatible books on the horizon, all of my books are invalidated and WotC black ops teams will shoot me in the genitals if I use them!

The Bibliophobe was apparently not aware that new editions are a thing that happens.

The Amateur Designer
"Each class should have their own XP charts. Just hear me out..."

The Amateur Designer actually does have mechanics they'd like to suggest. They don't have an agenda to push, or simply want WotC to pander to them, or have any axe to grind.

They're just really bad at this.

The Indignant
"By not acknowledging the problems with 4E and by not apologizing for the damage 4E has done to the D&D brand, WOTC is sending me the message that they don't truly care about what I think."

5E isn't enough. 4th Edition was WotC taking a metaphorical shit on the fanbase's chest. That one advertisement they ran jokingly acknowledging that previous editions, including the one they made, had their problems and 4E's designers were setting out to try and fix them? Unforgiveable mockery! Nerd blackface! Not making the game I like? CRIME OF ALL CRIMES!

5E trying to cater to everyone isn't enough. The Indignant needs a personal apology from Mike Mearls for 4E ever existing, tattooed on his cheeks as he firmly presses his lips against The Indignant's left buttock.

(The left, because 4E wasn't right!)

The Tito
"So you are admitting 4.0 was a colossal failure that destroyed the game and fractured gamers into a thousand pieces?"

The Tito knows 4E was the worst thing to ever happen to tabletop gaming. They've been saying so for years! Why can't anyone see it?! All they need is some kind of proof that the game they don't like literally destroyed the hobby. Some sort of proof, like...

A new edition! Perfect! The Tito is now Cassandra's curse broken, and their words ring true. I mean it's not like a new edition was coming along eventually, right?

The Paying Customer
 "I really truly believe that 5th edition will just divide the fan base further, because so many of us are happy with the rules we've already been using for years. Why is it that I should feel "wrong" for wanting to continue playing 1E? I spend a ton of money on my hobby through eBay and Amazon. Why doesn't WOTC want my money?"

The Paying Customer has money! Why isn't WotC falling over themselves to gently fetch it from his outstretched hand? He has money, and money is good for business! Market research conducted by The Paying Customer glancing at a forum he and his like-minded friends congregate in assures him that WotC could easily support past editions and new ones simultaneously, perhaps with fairy sparkles.

Fuck Corporations
"Paizo has shown itself to be honest, open, and trustworthy with its fans. WotC on the other hand..."

Fuck Corporations knows what really destroyed D&D: It was Ha$bro! I mean really, a game owned by a corporation? That is just asking for it, like a dinosaur wearing a short skirt. Anything produced by a company is dead and soulless by definition, motivated only by profit! They're exploiting us!

Paizo is, of course, a grassroots gamer movement not interested in profit. Honest. Compassionate. Buzzword.

The Xaositect
"So D&D is: an immersion to adventuring by playing a team of balanced adventuring roles in the same fantasy world, presented by the DM."

This guy could be the world's greatest designer and you'd never know, since everything they say is completely incoherent.

Seriously, what the fuck?

Peanut Gallery
"Personally I hate 4th ed. I think WotC failed on this one. I hope 5th edition is better but regardless I'll be sticking to Pathfinder."

They're not going to play D&D anyway. They just thought you'd like to know.

The Pupal 4E Grognard
"Im am done with you guys. I have a entire youtube and facebook dedicated to 4th edition. I have battled for you all year and spent $1000 on books. Chris Perkins said there will be no 5th edition. Everything the trolls said is true. What a joke, Mike Mearls and company has destroyed the legacy of the greatest RPG ever."

Despite the best efforts of whoever owns D&D at the time, every edition will inevitably have its haters. Sometimes, it's possible to spot them in advance. There's something about that twinkle in their eye, the way they've already decided 4E is ruined before actually seeing any 5E material. One day, if they're lucky, they might look at themselves in the mirror and realise what they are becoming. If not?...

No, John. You are the grognards.



(On a serious note: Really, if it's possible for you to participate in this, do it! Even if it's optimistic as hell, there's a whole lot to gain in trying. What's the worst that could happen?)

Monday, January 2, 2012

CR25DM, 2E

To celebrate my 62nd post, I am changing the layout to something that lets me have wider posts. I find it more readable.

It's a little hacked-together now; I need to redo the title and side images and the footer image is gone for now. There are a lot of other little changes I'm probably forgetting, too. Also, it just inserted line break tags all over that post I just made and I need to work out how to make it cut that shit out.

Any suggestions and comments about how it's not REAL CR25DM any more are welcome!

Everything Is Doomed Forever

So recently The Escapist published a series of three articles on the past, present and future of D&D. These surprised me - partly because I didn't know The Escapist still publishes content that isn't Zero Punctuation, and partly because they are a dumb-as-bricks extended serenade to the Good Old Days with as little rational thought as possible.

Part 1: The Glory Days

I knew how most of it was going to go when I read the second paragraph:

Confidence in the official Dungeons & Dragons is at an all-time low; on forums, at conventions and at your local game store, players are split into various camps, viciously defending what they believe is the "true" D&D."

Oh man, people are arguing about which edition is better? This hasn't happened before! It must mean confidence in 4E is lower than any other edition!

If articles written by grognards made me laugh out loud I would have busted up by the second page, which basically fellates Ryan Dancey (the guy who has been predicting D&D's demise for years ever since they let him go) and the OGL, WotC's little open source project of good intentions ruined by stupid ideas.

The OGL "boom" did jack shit for the RPG industry in the end. Sure, everyone thought it was a golden era because all those d20 books (like the Book of Erotic Fantasy) clogging store shelves gave the illusion of growth, but once the inevitable d20 bust hit it turned out it hadn't really been doing anything eexcept sucking air away from non-d20 systems. Dancey's goal of having other developers fill "niches" to supplement WotC's content failed as people realised that instead they could just publish their own thing with d20 mechanics. Hell, usually when I hear someone defending the OGL, their first point is "It got us Pathfinder!" Yeah, creating competitors by enabling someone to copy-paste your rules into a new book and encourage people to buy their product instead of yours sure was a smart move on WotC's part! Way to "ensure [the division of 2nd edition vs. 1st] did not repeat" and then hand someone else the tools to encourage the division of 3rd vs. 4th!

And we're only two-thirds of the way through the first article. The last page is basically ignorant grognard talking points ("hurf durf 4E is WoW! WotC is ruining the hobby") dressed up with pretentions of rational thought, with one last tug of Ryan "WFRP is a clever derivative of d20" Dancey's dick because the guy who spied on his coworkers at GAMA is apparently a visionary. What a tone we've set for this series!

Part 2: 4E Sucks! Oh nooo!

So, what we've apparently learned from the Past article is that the OGL was great, Ryan "D&D is doomed any day now!" Dancey is a genius and we haven't explained why yet, but 4E is destroying the hobby. I can't wait to see what the Present article has in store!

Turns out it's an even more thinly veiled grognard rant than the last one.

"But as result of Hasbro's desire to turn D&D into a $100 million business, and the success of fantasy MMO videogames like World of Warcraft, the release of the 4th edition in 2008 changed more of the game than many fans were comfortable with and despoiled the goodwill Wizards of the Coast had built over the last decade. The Ghost of D&D Present still haunts the industry."

The mating cries of the grognard: "4E is WoW!" "Change is bad!" Oh no!

"While 4th edition offered elegant tactical combat and an equanimity between classes never seen before in the game, many of the people who played Gygax's Dungeons & Dragons in the 70s and 80s didn't understand why concepts they held to be sacred were axed."

"While 4th edition is a good game, it changed Gygax's vision!!" Oh nooo!

Oh, and the hot quotes! From "people who actually work at WotC" we have a couple of meaningless half-quotes from 4E designers on being young and modern, followed by half a page of non-WotC people explaining what they think of the new edition.

Apparently Chris Pramas (president of Green Ronin publishing, thinks WotC made some "curious choices" in 4E by changing the cosmology, adding new races and altering existing settings to fit. This happens every fucking edition, but this is 4E! Change is scary! R.A. Salvatore thinks 4E makes roleplaying/writing harder, because I guess I missed the sidebar tellling people not to roleplay. Erik Mona gets a quote, and I have no idea why. "Hey, let's ask the guy who works for WotC's competitor and encouraged people to be afraid of 4E and buy Pathfinder before 4E came out what he thinks of 4E! What a source!"

The second page does get back to actually canvassing people who work at WotC for their opinion, if only because Greg Tito got the opportunity to fill entire paragraphs with Collins talking about how he was disappointed in the GSL sprinkled with more Ryan "EVE Online monocle fiasco" Dancey babble about how great OGL was.

Then it devotes even more time to Erik Mona pimping out Pathfinder. Holy shit, really?

In December 2007, WOTC released Wizards Presents: Races and Classes the first of several preview documents that outlined some of the radical changes to the rules, and initial feedback from fans was not encouraging. "All of a sudden our subscribers started begging us not to convert to the new game system," Mona said.

"Feedback from WotC previews was not encouraging! For example, Erik Mona - the guy who works for a company whose business strategy mostly consists of exploiting a niche market of people who don't like 4E, who was telling people to be scared of 4E before it came out - says Paizo subscribers were begging them not to convert to 4E!" (A quick Google search turned up a Paizo forum thread on this very subject... from October 2007. Clearly, it was WotC publishing 4E previews from December onwards that resulted in the feedback Erik Mona received, not the usual "now I haven't read or played the new edition, but change is scary!" mindless edition warring every single edition gets!

On the upside, the next part about pimping out the OSR isn't terrible and Tito at least mentions he is working on an OSR fantasy heartbreaker, like I couldn't already guess he's a grognard. On the other hand, why do OSR dudes keep mentioning Lamentations of the Flame Princess? Raggi can't write for shit. (Seriously, go here and search for Death Frost Doom for an RPGnet poster's Let's Read of one of the worst OSR adventures ever made if you're bored and the Something Awful paywall isn't up.)

Page 3 is basically more "4E is a videogame! World of Warcraaaaft!" idiocy:

Paradoxically, one of the most frequent complaints with 4th edition was that the rules too closely mimicked World of Warcraft or EverQuest. The concept of certain classes described specifically to take or deal damage in 4th edition mirrors the role of tank or "DPS" in MMOs.

4E roles are just the fighter/mage/rogue/cleric dynamic of previous editions with a different name. Certain classes being good at taking or dealing damage is nothing new. MMO roles can trace their roots back to D&D anyway. The people making this "complaint" are talking out of their ass..

Coinciding with the release of 4th edition D&D in 2008, Wizards of the Coast launched an advertising campaign that reached out to MMO players. "If you're going to sit in your basement pretending to be an elf, you should at least have some friends over to help," the text of one ad read over a shot of a bored young man in front of a computer. Paradoxically, one of the most frequent complaints with 4th edition was that the rules too closely mimicked World of Warcraft or EverQuest. The concept of certain classes described specifically to take or deal damage in 4th edition mirrors the role of tank or "DPS" in MMOs.

Greg Tito's quality journalism continues with a quote from Collins pointing out that 4E took inspiration from all kinds of games, citing European board games and card games as just examples. Tito can't even get his thinly-veiled 4E-bashing right, though, and blows a chance to write some "4E is totally a board/card game, oh nooo!" bullshit in favour of changing this to:

"Pulling from so many different sources, especially videogames, may have worked against the reception of 4th edition D&D."

and plastering it on the page in big letters just in case Collins making a coherent point distracts from Tito's "4E is WoW!" screed. Oh, and then we have Pramas talking some more about 4E being a videogame. Is this article even trying any more?

The rest of the article mentions that 4E does have fans and does sell well, though suddenly citations are needed when you make broad statements about tabletop games. Not when you're saying 4E is responsible for every time someone at WotC is let go though!

"The negative response to 4th edition was not without consequences for the people who made it. Rob Heinsoo was laid off in late 2009, and Bill Slavicsek, Director of RPG R&D for more than ten years, left earlier this year. (...) In May 2010, Andy Collins was asked to vacate his position at Wizards of the Coast as design and development manager of D&D."

Also holy shit, this is the best way to end the article.

"Old school gamers rejoiced when Collins' successor was named, but it remains to be seen whether one man can turn the tide."

"Did I mention new things are bad enough yet? We need to turn the tide!"

Part 3: Nerd Rage

Daunted by the release of the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons in 2008, the future of the roleplaying game industry is unclear. The core books of 4th edition sold well, and the game is still popular among a large section of players, but detractors used memes like Hitler's speech from Downfall to illustrate their rage , while game designers like Justin Alexander carefully examined why the dissociated mechanics of 4th edition didn't work for him. The nerd rage has dulled a bit in the three years since 4th edition, was released, but the tabletop RPG industry is still reeling.

I really should stop reading here. Seriously? You're championing Justin Alexander's dysfunctional rambling about how this "disassociated mechanics" bullshit he made up is bad for D&D, when his own definition ("mechanics which have no association with the game world. These are mechanics for which the characters have no functional explanations") applies to most of every edition of D&D ever?

Afterwards we have some quotes from Mearls, and I honestly can't tell which of the dumb parts are Mearls or Tito.

"It's all about player power now - the DM is just the rules guy - and the DM can't contradict what the players say. [The game] is taking away from the DM, and that's where I worry because other types of games can do that better. I might as well play a board game, 'cause I'm just here enforcing the rules. Without the DM as the creative guy, what's the point?"

Yeah, the DM can't be creative any more! 4E lets the players overrule the DM!

Seriously, was Mearls smoking something when he said this or is Tito twisting his words? Get fucking real.

"Mearls admits 4th edition might have gone too far in creating a perfectly balanced game. "We've lost faith of what makes an RPG an RPG," he said, admitting that in trying to please gamers with a limited imagination, 4th edition might have punished those with an active one. "There's this fear of the bad gaming group, where the game is so good that even playing with a bad gaming group, you'll still have fun.""

...

Neither of those Mearls quotes have anything to do with imagination, or balance, or anything Greg Tito says Mearls is "admitting".

What the fuck?

Also, 4E punishes people with an active imagination? Get fucked, Tito. What part of 4E do you think punishes imagination? Easy power reskinning to fit any character concept? Better game balance that doesn't punish people for picking non-casters or trap feats? Faster, easier encounter design with less focus on pointless number-crunching?

It sounds like a previous edition killed your creativity, and now that 4e asks you to use it, you are lost.

Most of the rest of the page is about WotC exploring new options and ways to appeal to more audiences, which is odd, because there's nothing here about how WotC is alienating true gamers by going against the holy word of Gygax.

You have to go straight to page 3 for that!

"With all of these options, it seems that the biggest hole in WotC's catalogue would be a product for those players who grew up with the game."

"But with products like Paizo's Pathfinder, the many games of the Old School Renaissance, and Chris Pramas' RPG lines from Green Ronin already serving their communities well, it will take more than lip service from Wizard of the Coast employees to heal the loss of hit points that 4th edition caused."

"A lot is going to depend on whether D&D can rebound from its current state. The game has had a troubled few years and it'll help everyone if WotC can turn things around," said Pramas."

"Paizo will continue to innovate as well, while still holding onto the principles that made Pathfinder successful.

"said Erik Mona, publisher at Paizo. "I hope Paizo is still at the vanguard of the tabletop hobby in 5 and 10 years, pushing forward with new ideas and new expressions of the game, but always focusing on story first."

"The vitriol seen during the launch of 4th edition now just leaves a bad taste in gamers' mouths."

"D&D, and by extension the whole role-playing industry, has been through a rough patch in the last few years, but there is a glint of great things ahead. Like the characters in any fantasy adventure story, passing through the dark times will only make us stronger. Despite the anger and resentment fostered by the release 4th edition, optimism on the future of RPGs has begun to bubble to the surface. We are on the verge of a golden age of tabletop gaming we haven't seen since fantasy roleplaying roared out of the minds of Gygax and Arneson and took over imaginations of gamers everywhere."

If D&D - not the RPG industry, D&D - has a problem right now, you know what it is?

Shit like this.

Arrogant grognards who think that D&D needs to cater to them and it's more important to preserve "sacred cows" than actually try to make a good game, who are less interested in the hobby actually growing and improving than they are in polluting it with conceited horseshit about how the "good old days" need to be preserved for their sole benefit and fuck everyone else. It's a vocal minority that WotC - hell, every developer - needs to ignore, and I hope to God that if I ever become this groggy about an RPG they leave me in the dust and do what they think is right.

This isn't an insightful series on the past, present and future of D&D. It's a poorly-disguised rant by yet another grognard upset that someone changed his RPG, with the same stupid rhetoric and incoherent talking points grognards say every single time there's a new edition. And it's on The Escapist, which claims to be "the internet's home for high-quality journalism and insightful commentary".

There are not enough laughing acronyms in the world.