critique 4: catching up to speed & the forge


you know how d&d 4 was universally reviled for being a turning point in how d&d was expected to be played, even though it made sense in hindsight of previous developments in the game and the hobby at large?

anyway, i'm going to come out and say it. [1]

the field of 'game design' was basically created by gary gygax to sell more books. it justified the existence of advanced dungeons & dragons as the officially sanctioned version of the dungeon game. by virtue of this, it justified the publishing of other games where dungeons & dragons as a 'system' did not apply. the market for tabletop role-playing games in this way justified itself once the hobby was translated from basements to bookstores. this should not be taken to mean that capitalism was an alien thing forced onto the hobby, since the aesthetics of dungeons & dragons are obviously drawn from the literary culture of mid-century america. it should also not be taken as something unique to role-playing games, since the same thing happened with regular board games (e.g.). what's with all the licensed editions of monopoly, and all the different variations on 'euro' worker placement games?

nevertheless, the commercialization of the hobby was not necessarily a forgone conclusion. for example, the mafia game has not yet exploded into an industry for producing and publishing infinitely more rules on how to play a casual party elimination game, even if by word of mouth there are different variations on the game. the original publication of dungeons & dragons (1974) and the subsequent assertion of advanced dungeons & dragons (1977-9) as its quintessential rulebook generated the current state of the hobby itself, transforming it into an industry proper. the hobby as we know it is therefore indebted to gygax's intertwined vision of systematization and commercialization.

at the same time, we cannot necessarily call gygax a pervert who wanted to force his players (and customers) to play the game how he envisioned it. he might have been a biological determinist who blamed women's brains for their own inability to play dungeons & dragons 'correctly', but he was in this respect a true believer in the invisible hand of the marketplace. there was just no way, he thought, to market dungeons & dragons to women because their interests simply lied elsewhere. gygax's systemization of the dungeon game was simply made with like-minded hobbyists (chauvinists or otherwise) in mind.

it should still be obvious, though, that the prospect of systemization would prove appealing for hobbyists with structures of fantasy distinct from gygax's. i discussed how the traditional game grew out of greg stafford's desire to develop and propagate his made-up fantasy world, and that this tendency was already foreshadowed by m.a.r. barker's empire of the petal throne (1975) published by TSR.

then, besides gygax and stafford, the hickmans' publications for dungeons & dragons in the late seventies represented a desire to determine the desires of players. their modules would offer stories instead of scenarios, and this was thought by adherents of the old school renaissance movement to have been the hobby's fall from grace. i would like to correct a point i made in the previous entry, that OSR hobbyists were necessarily wrong to attribute this shift to the hickmans instead of stafford or barker. the hickmans absolutely represent a different enjoyment than stafford or barker seemed to have possessed (or gygax, for that matter). the pleasure of inventing systems and 'lore' is distinct from the enjoyment of having others act out a story of your creation. when traditional games became the norm thanks to the hickmans, it is more accurate to say that worldbuilders like stafford found a more comfortable medium to construct their little worlds. then, the mere realization that systems could be created led to new avenues of pleasure in the hobby (i suspect for people like stafford and barker). thus gygax's project of systematization, trying to wrangle the wild hobby into a system proper, led to the prospect of creating systems from scratch in general.

i hope this is a decent summary of everything so far. since we seem to have located the origin of broad patterns in the hobby, i don't think it's worth dwelling on movements like the forge. the story of the hobby is the story of dungeons & dragons as a zombified brand, irrespective of who is holding onto it. indie enthusiasts tend to characterize dungeons & dragons as a reactionary force that appropriates genuine progress made by 'the people' so to speak. i claim instead that the indie scene is absolutely dependent on dungeons & dragons as a foil, that all these developments in the hobby were spearheaded by dungeons & dragons, and that no progress made in this context has been 'genuine'.

a postscript since last time

i had a really insightful discussion with the author behind the retired adventurer, whose blog post (link) i cited in the previous entry when talking about the historical development of role-playing games from the 'classical' style to the 'traditional' style. he told me that although indeed runequest had certain sensibilities that would lend later to traditional games, call of cthulhu was indeed the first game to systematize these trends as a narrative-focused game. once call of cthulhu proved successful, runequest would be reworked as an even better instrument to propagate stafford's fantasy world. likewise, barker's tekumel games took on such features when the traditional game emerged as a paradigm of play.

the retired adventurer plans to write a blog post talking about how the failures of vampire: the masquerade in particular led to the development of story games which, seeing how traditional games like vampire did not succeed in delivering fully narrative experiences [2], tried to solve its problems through design. i'm really looking forward to his post!

and for that reason, i also don't want to spend too much time dwelling upon the historical transitions between different periods of the role-playing game hobby. this series hasn't had an actual title. it's a critique of something, but what? we'll see!

moving forward

liber ludorum (link) discusses the history of third-party licenses in the tabletop role-playing game industry. when WOTC published dungeons & dragons 3E (2000) [3], they did so under their new open gaming license or OGL. liber ludorum says:

In the early 2000s, Dansey and Wizards executives wanted to reclaim D&D’s market dominance, and to do that, they needed to generate unprecedented levels of fan engagement.

The OGL was the solution. Instead of DMs developing adventures and dungeons for their groups, anyone could create and distribute content for D&D, and it could happen fast; Wizards wouldn’t have to spend the time, money, and effort of reviewing applications and issuing licenses.

there are two current tendencies which can be attributed to this excellent business move by WOTC. first of all, this decision acts almost as a reversal of gygax's original systematization in advanced dungeons & dragons. rather than assert themselves as the true arbiter of the dungeon game proper, they allowed everyone to participate in producing d&d content for free and without any oversight [4]. this means that WOTC could produce the books that everyone would use, like the player's handbook and the dungeon master's guide, while outsourcing production of supplementary materials like adventures to the eager fanbase (i owe this insight to the retired adventurer). this massively expanded dungeons & dragons as a brand, and also allowed WOTC to restructure the whole hobby scene by virtue of having made such a forgiving license that anyone could use.

second, it anticipates a later strategy used commonly in the indie industry, where developers run 'game jams' for others to produce content for the developers' own games. although typically described as an exercise in creativity and collaboration, the game jam ultimately serves as a networking event for the developer to aggrandize their product through others' work. this aggrandization is social (brand-building) and, of course, economic. WOTC's decision to create the OGL and publish dungeons & dragons under that license likewise resulted in an explosion of d&d and d20-compatible publications. keep in mind that the OGL is not even specific to dungeons & dragons, and anyone can publish anything under OGL. regardless, WOTC managed to assert dungeons & dragons not as an official ruleset but as a rallying point for the hobby at large. this resulted in everyone publishing content for d20 games as a sort of intellectual commons. meanwhile, WOTC reaped the social and economic benefits of being the official publisher of dungeons & dragons content and the composer of the OGL itself.

while talking to gus L from all dead generations (link), he pointed out that WOTC's motives might have been even less 'altruistic' since the OGL also served to more stringently define how other publishers could use material from d&d, since copyright 102B protections did not cover certain things that WOTC wanted to lay claim to (namely 'rules', which are not covered by copyright).

the indie perception of dungeons & dragons as an excessively permissive 'system' is due in no small part to the permissiveness of the OGL itself. WOTC embraced dungeons & dragons as a game that could be played in any way by anyone. that is to say that they embraced dungeons & dragons as a brand with which consumers could identify, more than a product per se. rather than criticize WOTC for exploiting the creativity of hobbyists to build their own brand, however, indie enthusiasts often instead criticize WOTC for not realizing that "system matters". or, if they are aware of the extent to which WOTC acts intentionally, they blame consumers themselves for not realizing that "system matters". there is some interesting nuance here, in that the OGL managed to reassert the importance of individual (i.e. per-table) experience by establishing WOTC as monopoly. this is in contrast to indie enthusiasts, who advocate for dismantling WOTC's supremacy and letting a hundred cottage industrialists bloom, each one offering their own auteur systems of play.

it should be clear that anyone who desires to be an independent publisher has a vested interest in wrestling market share away from WOTC. their line of argument relies on the gygaxian assumption that the hobby needs designers to standardize experiences of play, combined with a hickmanian demand to dictate the experience of players down to their very emotions [5]. then there is the barkerian/staffordian enjoyment derived from making these products themselves, a desiring-production if there was one (put a pin in it!). WOTC and its consumer base arguably have a healthier relationship to dungeons & dragons as a product in this respect, since they do not perceive themselves as beholden to it as a text but instead they are only unified by common interest. bearing this in mind, i want to make two claims.

first, if the popularity of dungeons & dragons does not prop up other games [6], then games that are not dungeons & dragons will continue to exist regardless of whether or not there is a group of people asserting themselves as an alternative 'cottage industry' [7]. the hobby exists between the people who play, and not because those people are being marketed to. arguably, the mass small-scale commercialization of the hobby not only raises the barrier to entry, but even makes the scene more unpleasant as it transforms from an activity space into a marketplace. at least we're not all grifting each other while dungeons & dragons is collectively grifting us!

the second claim requires a bit more groundwork.

an aside: do politics matter?

the slogan "everything is political" once referred to the principle of critique that any work of media contains the latent social biases of its authors. the most obvious example might be something like the children's television show (now movie!) PAW Patrol, revolving around a team of dogs that protect a beach town from danger. there's a police dog that leads the group, a dog that is both a firefighter and a paramedic, a conspicuously pink she-dog that pilots a helicopter--i guess they couldn't think of a community service job that might be performed by women--and so on. it's uncontroversial to say that the intent of PAW Patrol is to socialize children as to the different roles of community servants and how they are essential to the wellbeing of the town in itself. furthermore, one might notice that the police dog is the natural leader, and the only female dog is a helicopter pilot. what is the intent behind this, or the message being delivered?

more recently, in leftist or liberal media, the slogan has become a moral imperative and a marketing technique. there are a couple of components to this new understanding. first, since everything is political, it is necessary that authors take the correct steps to represent only good politics. second, since everything is political, it is necessary that consumers consume the correct products, since by doing so they are supporting good politics. jonah peretti, the founder of digitial media company buzzfeed, wrote an article in 1996 called "capitalism and schizophrenia: contemporary visual culture and the acceleration of identity formation/dissolution" [8]. if you are familiar with deleuze and guattari, you might guess the perspective from which peretti writes. d&g argued that capitalism has a schizophrenic structure or lack thereof, insofar as it resists formalization/consistency and creates new worlds into which it inserts itself. peretti summarizes:

Mobile, flexible capital is capable of inserting itself into any cultural milieu. In countries as different as Japan, Brazil, France, and Kenya, capitalism is able to take advantage of the local symbolic order (Harvey 1989). The forms that capitalism takes in these various countries reflect the symbolic order that the capitalist machine has plugged into. Thus, Deleuze and Guattari do not characterize the capitalist machine as monolithic or unitary ­­ it does not have an "I", an ego, or a unified identity. It works instead as a polymorphous destroyer of codes. It continually breaks down the cultural, symbolic, and linguistic barriers that create territories and limit exchange. Thus, Deleuze and Guattari assert that "[c]ivilization is defined by the decoding and deterritorialization of flows in capitalist production" (244).

and this can be related to what marx says in the communist manifesto (ch 1):

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

peretti argues that one avenue for capitalism to create new markets is to create new self-images, new imagos, with which people can identify and construct by purchasing them as product. he argues that the postmodern subject oscillates in a sense between schizophrenia and neurosis, having to constantly reconstitute their self-image via commodities and then deconstruct it to become available again to be marketed towards.

In Lacanian terms, consumer capitalism needs subjects who continually reenact the infantile drama of mirror stage identifications. These subjects must oscillate quickly between schizophrenic consciousness and idealized ego formations.


Put differently, capitalism needs schizophrenia, but it also needs egos. The contradiction is resolved through the acceleration of the temporal rhythm of late capitalist visual culture. This type of acceleration encourages weak egos that are easily formed, and fade away just as easily. An essentially schizo person can have a quick ego formation, and buy a new wardrobe to compliment his or her new identity. This identity must be quickly forsaken as styles change, and contradictory media images barrage the individual's psyche. The person becomes schizo again, prepared for another round of Lacanian identification and catalogue shopping. The "Ideal-I"s that the capitalist media offer are perhaps even less complex than the infantile imago of the child's own reflection. Needless to say, such an ego wears out fast, inspiring the consumer to shop around for another one.

it should not be lost on you that this author would go on to found buzzfeed, a company that pioneered digital media as an avenue for self-actualization. and tumblr too, oddly enough, where he originated different operations of social media that we take for granted, e.g. the reblog function! i'm honestly happy for peretti and i hope it's worked out well. the hustle doesn't quit! i'm being sincere.

in any case, once political identities (what even is a political identity?) become identities, they become terra nullius for capital logic to infiltrate and reconstruct on its own terms. identity is a commodity including politics. consumption becomes a political project and a primary method of actualizing your self-image. by consuming the correct commodities, by putting your money in the hands of people who deserve it, you are affirming your identity and also performing good politics. this is readily apparent in the indie tabletop role-playing game market, where purchasing the correct media content becomes a political action through which to rebel against WOTC's monopoly on the hobby, or more broadly, to demonstrate one's own moral standing. ajey pandey appeals to this sentiment in BOLT! as follows:

I’m sorry, but we ​have to talk about this...

It’s a delicate task to divine the political inclinations of a game ​system, but once you build a ​game with a setting, with setting-specific mechanics, you come face-to-face with the political goals (or lack of goals) that an RPG holds.

Sure, not every game is as nakedly political as ​#iHunt or ​Red Markets, but political worldviews are baked into the bones of every role playing game, in how characters progress, fight, grow, and lose. Are characters treated as special people? Are they pushed into specific moral quandaries? Are they killing to take people’s stuff, or for something bigger?

Even before a writer designs costumes or adds a “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” paragraph (like this one) or decides what skin color the characters on the cover are, the text and structure of the game reveal the politics of the game and writers—in much the same way you can somewhat pick up someone’s politics from hearing what words they use.

So be mindful of your politics--even if they're not mine--and be honest about them when you write or run games using BOLT.

For everyone's sake.

you can see how then the principle that "everything is political" has been transformed from one of critique to one of constitution, i.e. as an essential justification of marketing new things. essential to this is the reinterpretation of the phrase from being a critique of unconscious biases to, again, an imperative for conscious actions.

do systems matter?

greek exceptionalism personally irks me to the point that i self-identify as an anti-classicist, but sometimes one society just happens to beat others to the punch at certain things, like managing to come up with production for exchange. sometime in the twelfth century BCE, a ton of mediterranean city states collapsed. all of these palace economies, for whatever reason, were reduced to nothing. the ex-serfs in greece had to fend for themselves instead of answering to some convoluted bureaucracy with their godking-in-chief at the top. this was the social context in which the works ascribed to hesiod were composed [9]: a bunch of mostly independent subsistence homesteads that occasionally did war and trade with each other.

this social context led to the formation of the polis. a polis isn't just a city. unlike the city states ruled by godkings, a polis was a city made up of people who by this point have been used to doing their own thing. whereas before city governments were also the primary agent of economic production and distribution, now both of those things were (to speak broadly) in the hands of free agents, and the city served instead as an organ to ensure harmony through peaceful resolution of conflict between these free agents. this was the context in which solon founded athenian democracy. a handful of homesteads accumulated massive power over the majority of the polis, confiscating land and keeping debt-slaves. solon redistributed land to the populace, instituted a program to grow cash crops like grapes instead of cereals with the intent to sell them, and expanded the political rights of athenian men thereby turning them into equals. athens became prosperous, importing cereals and slaves from as far as the black sea to support its equal-rights political project. i claim that democracy for athens was nothing more than the political intervention necessary to maintain domestic harmony, and obscure the increasing antagonism between equal citizens of different means.

would it be right to say that athens only had a false democracy, because it did not extend citizenship to all (e.g. women and foreigners)? i'd like to compare the athenian project to mao tse-tung's notion of "new democracy" which, if you think about it, is not very new at all. mao defines his new democracy as the assemblage of four classes that must cooperate in order to liberate china from imperialist rule: the peasantry, the proletariat, the petite bourgeoisie, and the national bourgeoisie. democracy here is not really much different than was developed in athens, except now it mediates between classes rather than just between members of a single class (i.e. land-holding homesteads). mao emphasizes the importance of new democracy in creating a new china with a new culture and so on. in function and in rhetoric, it is not very distinct from the class collaborationism that constituted fascism in the earlier part of the 20th century. both mussolini and li dazhao, the founder of the CPC, referred to their respective countries as proletarian nations, insofar as they are exploited by the capitalist world-system and must therefore construct their own local systems to benefit the nation's people and combat imperialism. the main difference between the two is ideological, i.e. aesthetic. mussolini conceived of fascist italy as a set of classes under the dictatorship of the nation, whereas mao conceived of communist (?) china as a set of classes democratically guiding the nation. marx's identification of bourgeois democracy as bourgeois dictatorship appears in a new form here!

the same criticism holds for liberal democracy, too. duh! i'm specifically referring to mao because no one likes american democracy except for democrats.

given these things, does democracy (for example) matter? does it not seem that whenever democracy is advocated for on principle, it is in reality a reflection of existing social relations and a desire to dispel conflict rather than bring it to the forefront? it is not controversial in marxist circles to say that bourgeois democracy is a veneer of bourgeois dictatorship. i claim by extension that expanding democracy serves to expand the total set of capitalist relations (which is of course not a bad thing since capitalism is a sort of progressive force). we can speak more generally based on marx's treatment of capitalism as a system in capital vol 1, where he tends to describe it in the best faith possible, talking about worker and capitalist approaching each other as free exchangers of commodities (i.e. labor-time and money respectively) on the market.

arguing about political systems then is basically pointless since no matter how much freedom there is, people are subject to the 'unconscious' social relations which actually dictate behavior and conditions. capitalism cannot be overcome by inventing new systems with which to replace it; rather, since capital is driven towards its own death (thanatos) and thereby creates the conditions for its own abolishment, that is an opportunity which should be seized by those who are self-interested in taking it. it makes sense to say that system matters insofar as a system is the symbolic constellation in which social relations are grounded, but to design a system with the intent to form new social relations is putting the cart before the horse at best (especially when expecting others to implement this system because it's somehow more correct than others). to say that "system matters", then, is nothing more than a justification for a futile exercise in imagining a future reality, rather than an analysis of how a system actually works.

the point is not that democracy is bad, but that it is not the forefront of social conflict. i'm sure that if communism happens, it'll have what we'd consider democratic structures of government, but this has no relation to the different social relations that exist between capitalism and communism.

wait, wasn't this supposed to be about tabletop role-playing games? what was that all about?

right! so, does system matter? it helps having a definition of what "system" means. do we mean the set of relations between subjects and objects of the game? then certainly a set of relations can be analyzed and critiqued to draw out how players are incentivized to behave, with respect to what they desire. one could modify relations or create new relations, either by allowing them to emerge from existing ones or by speaking them into existence.

but that's not usually what's meant when it's said that system matters. take dungeons & dragons, the original. we can only speak of od&d as a text because it guarantees no consistent system, if again by system we refer to the set of relations that constitute a game (or 'campaign' as od&d would have it). this serves as an obvious example that there is not necessarily if ever a one-to-one correspondence between a system as formally defined in a book and a system in practice. advanced dungeons & dragons might be considered the proper systematization of d&d for the purposes of standardizing tournament play, but its functional goal was to assert itself as the true version of d&d officially sanctioned by TSR--that is, to attempt to solidify TSR's role as the ultimate publisher of dungeon games.

given the relationship between text and play, it's not necessarily wrong to say that by prescribing relations in a text that you are structuring play for others who play according to the text. however, it bears repeating that there is a difference between there being such a discursive relationship between text and play, and then acting as though there is an entitlement on the part of the author who must have their text accurately applied or else play is wrong. the latter is not a description of the relationship between text and play, but a prescription and an imperative of how to play--in other words, if an author demands this, it is a matter of their own enjoyment.

the treatment of prescription as description is what leads ron edwards to claim that players of old games have "brain damage", since the games they played injured their ability to create stories. the conversation between "vincent" (vincent baker?) and ron edwards is as follows:


How do you know whether your character is a protagonist?

At what point do you feel it? Maybe you go into play assuming that your character will be a protagonist - what's the moment where play confirms your assumption? What's it like before play confirms your assumption? Have you ever worried, mid-play, that maybe your character isn't a protagonist after all?

ron edwards:

My response, which is actually a diagnosis of the existing activity:

Yes, "we" are still obsessed, in the manner that you have described. It's a creative and technical illness, much in the sense that early cinema was hampered by the assumption that what they filmed should look like a stage-set, viewed front-on, from the same distance, at all times.

The design decisions I've made with my current project are so not-RPG, but at the same time so dismissive of what's ordinarily called "consensual storytelling," that I cannot even begin to discuss it on-line. I can see the influences of Universalis, The Mountain Witch, and My Life with Master, but I cannot articulate the way that I have abandoned the player-character, yet preserved the moral responsibility of decision-making during play. That's all I'll say here, and I won't answer questions about it.

More specific to your question, Vincent, I'll say this: that protagonism was so badly injured during the history of role-playing (1970-ish through the present, with the height of the effect being the early 1990s), that participants in that hobby are perhaps the very last people on earth who could be expected to produce *all* the components of a functional story. No, the most functional among them can only be counted on to seize protagonism in their stump-fingered hands and scream protectively. You can tag Sorcerer with this diagnosis, instantly.

[The most damaged participants are too horrible even to look upon, much less to describe. This has nothing to do with geekery. When I say "brain damage," I mean it literally. Their minds have been *harmed.*]

Perhaps Primetime Adventures, My Life with Master, Dogs in the Vineyard, Polaris, etc etc, are really the best available prosthetics possible, permitting the damaged populace to do X? If so, what will people with limbs prefer to use, to do X?

I don't know. I can see its parts forming, as with a mid-term embryo, but what it will be and how it will work, and who will use it for what purposes, I don't know. My current project may be right on track with it, or I may be veering off in a hopeless direction.

as i have discussed in a prior entry (link), the goal of what we call "old-school play" is not to create a story but to traverse a fantastic space guided by desire, such that any story which emerges is incidental and retrospective (much like stories that emerge from 'real life'). edwards prescribes that the goal of play is to create a story, elevates this prescription into a truth about play as such, and then claims that players who do not play with this aim actually fail to meet this aim because they are mentally damaged. perhaps this can be remedied by playing the correct game, or maybe not, but regardless the implication is that by playing the correct game, one can avoid brain damage.

my take is to not let salespeople convince you that you must buy their products to be politically or mentally correct, and on the flip side do not entitle yourself to the enjoyment of other people.

[1] i'm gay XD lmao

[2] he also told me that ad&d 2E received this same sort of criticism. it essentially had the same written mechanics as ad&d 1E (gygax's tome), but it was expected to be used for totally different narrative-driven sorts of games. remember that ravenloft and dragonlance were already published by TSR in 1983-4, and ad&d 2E wouldn't even be published until the end of that decade.

[3] this is noted by just about everyone, but the moniker of 'third edition' actually locates d&d 3E as the successor to the ad&d series.

[4] the primary exception is that anyone using the OGL could claim certain aspects that could not be copied, e.g. using the term 'dungeon master' or referring to 'dungeons & dragons' in name.

[5] barker and stafford survive into the present when the design of make-believe worlds and systems is embraced as 'play' in itself.

[6] this slogan takes 'games' not to mean experiences at the table, but rather text products. it can be rephrased less ambiguously as "the popularity of dungeons & dragons does not ensure that other books by different publishers will be bought by the same consumers."

[7] my retort here does mean game as table-experience, instead of game as commercial book.

[8]. peretti, jonah. 1996. "Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution," negations. retrieved from

[9] homer too, but homer did not write about his own time period. instead "he" (if he himself existed) wrote about his society's perception of events already long past, since the trojan war took place during the bronze age. there is some interesting instances where homer attempts to describe these societies using terms of his own world (e.g. calling kings 'chieftains'), when such words were not used by the inhabitants of that earlier society.


  1. I just stumbled across this series today and read it in one sitting. I don't understand everything but I really enjoy it and feel like I'm learning a lot.

  2. while I'm sure ron edwards said all the inflammatory stuff you quote him as saying in this article, the way you present his views here seem like a mischaracterization of at least what he currently thinks. i don't know Ron, but I can say for a fact that he enjoys playing dnd and old games way more than I do.

    I'm not here to defend the guy's honour or something, it's just that I love criticism of his ideas and I don't feel like it's his ideas you're criticizing here so that's kind of disappointing.

    1. hi there! that’s interesting if edwards recanted his statements and even became an old-school d&d “enjoyer”; given the view he expressed during his years at the forge, it seems that would run contrary to his idea here. i did talk to a friend after publishing this article, though, and he pointed out that edwards’ issue was likely less with classic or traditional games as such, than it was with games that were construed with traditional mechanics that nevertheless claimed to offer story-generative experiences. while that reading makes total sense, he still made a sweeping statement about games in general (which he ascribed to rules rather than the conflict between rules and goals). given that what he said here, regardless of intent, ended up impacting how we discuss tabletop games up until the present, i think it is still deserving of critique.

      i plan on writing a good faith critique of edwards and the theories he put forward that suggest the aim of play is to tell stories. are there any recent statements in particular that come to mind, when you say that his views have since changed? although i’m mostly concerned with how his early views shaped discourse, it would be great to see how he has since changed his perspective. thanks for your reply!

    2. I think critiquing him is great too, it's kind of my hobby, although I don't really publish my ideas and I agree with him about certain issues.

      He outlines his feelings about dnd in his "finding dnd" series on his YouTube channel. He also has a playlist about 4e something something where he talks to someone about how he plays 4th edition.

      I believe him trying to explain what he's saying (what he claims he was saying all along) by "story" and "narrative" is in his videos about PbtA and authority.

      I went through a bunch of the stuff on there recently so I might be mixing it up, but I think that Finding DnD and his ones on the Glorantha setting make his origins and tastes much clearer, which for me put him and wear he wants into perspective a lot more.which in turn made it clearer what we disagree about.

  3. You are blowing my mind right now. The more tools to identify Capitalism (and thus make conscious choices as to its influences), the better.

    I did want to make an observation, as someone diagnosed with schizophrenia. It's a very misrepresented condition, even medical professionals I've worked with often have a very poor understanding of it (in my experience, though I do feel seeking care is an important step).

    Basically, the way it seems "schizophrenia" is used in these sources is scattered, fragmented, lacking a core identity. People often confuse schizophrenia with multiple personality disorder, but I don't believe that's even how multiple personality disorder works.

    Basically, schizophrenia means having hallucinations. It's a specific subset of psychosis (having hallucinations) with additional qualifications (x or more of certain time experienced, number of senses, etc). It also does affect personality in some ways (negative symptoms, compared to the hallucinations as positive symptoms) I know who I am, I even have a very firm grasp of reality (moreso than many, it would seem, as evidenced by their beliefs). Just, my brain makes me hear things that don't actually have a source outside of said brain.

    Thank you for this, I am now following this blog.

    1. hi there! :) thank you so much for your reply; i want to apologize upfront for any insensitivity on the topic. these authors definitely rely on a non-clinical, popular understanding of schizophrenia which is unfair to people who actually live with it. thank you for pointing that out, and i hope to reflect that if i ever refer to this sort of material again.


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