Showing posts from June, 2021

critique 3: the emergence of the "traditional" game

PART 2 last time we talked about the structural underpinnings of (old school) dungeons & dragons as a language or a system of interactions. i argued that what sets apart (old) d&d from other games is that it is open and infinite. d&d is open because instead of being contained inside its own explicitly-defined rules, it opens the set of interactions to anything the players say happens. d&d is also infinite because it is a game without an end, which it accomplishes by shifting goalposts in the form of experience levels. i talked about how these structural constraints (or lack thereof) allow d&d players to simulate their fantasy endlessly, and how the enjoyment derived from pursuing this fantasy differs between (typical) women and men. gygax is therefore correct to notice a difference in enjoyment of games along gendered lines, but he is wrong to attribute it to biological difference when it is actually a social function of how girls and boys are raised and social

the rpg “industry”

from my secret twitter: frankly i’m not concerned about the indie rpg “industry” bc i don’t wanna prop up a whole new market just bc wotc sucks ass like i’ll buy cool things from other hobbyists who are more creative than i am, but i don’t support a “cottage industry” you know about how d&d’s popularity doesn’t prop up other games? same is true the other way around: non-d&d games are going to exist regardless of whether or not there’s a group of people asserting themselves as “the industry” the hobby exists between the people who play and keep it alive, and people who commercialize the hobby are not the ones keeping it alive (not a critique of selling things or w/e, but of asserting the hobby as a marketplace contra wotc or in general)

pandemic roles

what i love about pandemic is that each player role represents a major exception to the rules of the game. it often turns out for me that playing one game, and then another right after, feels really difficult because if anyone decides to change their role, you have to completely rethink your strategy for how to win the game. to show what i mean, i’m going to give a short explanation of the game’s rules, and i’m going to follow each rule with a role description that basically overrides it. rules (and roles) of pandemic at the beginning of the game (and after each player’s turn), cities across the world are randomly infected with disease. you draw a card from the infection deck to determine which cities are infected. the goal of the game is to develop cures for all 4 diseases. disease is represented by little colored cubes. each city can have up to 3 disease cubes. if you would have to put more than 3 cubes on a city space, you instead put one cube on each adjacent city. this is called

a game where you mine and craft

unfortunately i don't think there's a way to adapt minecraft to a tabletop role-playing format if we think of tabletop role-playing games as vehicles for collaborative story telling, or role-playing as pretending to be a character. however, in my recent blog post ( link ), i discuss how what sets old-school dungeons & dragons from other games is how it is an open and infinite system. you need both of these aspects to encompass the creative play of minecraft: there should be few strict rules (let language do the heavy lifting), and there should be no absolute goal in sight. there shouldn’t be a realistic narrative [1] either, since we’re talking about minecraft where days are twenty minutes long and players can dig massive tunnel systems in that amount of time. i think the best comparison is to how most board games don’t ask you to distinguish between you as player and you as character. when i play minecraft with my friends, i don’t make that distinction. i’m the one punchi

critique 2: the old school

PART 1 i don’t think this article will ruffle anyone’s feathers. i’ve had the pleasure of only interacting with old-school gamers [1] that aren’t somehow neopagan fascists and that don’t have any weird nostalgic presuppositions about the OSR: namely, that OSR is how games SHOULD be, or that it’s important to stay true to (some version of) gygax’s inspired vision. i gravitate towards the old-school scene because i like the lack of buy-in required to play. like mafia or werewolf, you can get together with your friends without pretension and use the game just as an excuse to joke around and have fun. of course, playing the game is enjoyable too, but (for me) that’s only conductive to the enjoyment of the party at the table. i bring that up because this enjoyment of play has nothing to do with something inherent to the OSR style, even if i myself feel it to be the best fit for its lack of conceit and rules compared to other games. in fact, gygax attributes this sort of enjoyment-beyond-the