Friday, August 22, 2008

Character Assassination in Module Form

From the "Background" section at the start of module G1: The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, you can read a description of the titular villain:
This chief, one Nosnra, is a grossly fat and thoroughly despicable creature, sly and vicious, loving ambush and backstabbing.
Words fail me.

24 comments:

  1. I guess I'm a little "out of the loop" concerning the feud between those two... Wasn't the module published in '78? Did the bad blood between them start that early?

    I had heard that the first lawsuit was in '79...so yeah, I suppose there was a bit of friction there previous to the lawsuit itself. I know the documents were sealed but does anyone have ANY idea what this infighting was about?

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  2. Hey, I assassinated that character too (with my gnome thief)! I had no idea whom the big lug was based on at the time... Gotta admit the description sounds a bit personal. Makes me wonder if other Eclavdra was a thinly veild version of EGG's sixth grade math teacher or some such :).

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  3. The feud, about whose exact terms no one is able to speak (so far as I know), probably began in 1977 if not before, as at least part of the impetus for the AD&D project was to cut Arneson out of the picture. From what I can tell, the dispute was about ownership and royalties, but I have no specific details, obviously.

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  4. Eclavdra, so far as I know, is not an anagram of anyone or anything, but it's possible that, like many things in Gygax's corpus, it's a reference of some sort.

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  5. Geez, Gary was a right asshole.

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  6. I have a hard time reconciling those who saw Gygax as just a nice guy. Little things like this. Big things like the feud. Big things like the nasty Dragon editorial he wrote castigating the APA community. The story he told about having this kid play in his game who was a bit full of himself - when the kid's PC died, Gygax described grabbing the kid's character sheet and gleefully tearing it up.

    My thought is that if Gygax respected you, he was a nice guy. But if you crossed him, or otherwise got on his bad side he turned quite ugly.

    Frank

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  7. Gary could indeed be a jerk of the highest order; I don't think anyone questions that. By his own admission, he often mistreated people and behaved abominably in the past. As he got older and developed some detachment, he changed his ways, at least a little bit.

    The man with whom I corresponded in his last few years was definitely not the same one who wrote G1. People can and do change and I feel that Gary did. That's not to excuse any of his missteps, of course, but I think we need to bear in mind there's a lot of context we don't have access to.

    I offered this quote solely because I find it interesting for the insight it offers us about an important event in the history of our hobby. I don't wish to defame Gary's memory; there are enough people who'll gladly do that out there. I looked up to this guy for much of my childhood and have many fond memories of my interactions with him as an adult. He was a human being, full of flaws like the rest of us. I still admire the guy, despite it all.

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  8. I definitely admire Garry for what he did for the hobby, but I have run into fawning fans before who can't accept anything less that unconditional admiration.

    Since I never had a chance to meet him in person, and was at least indirectly a target of his flaming of the APA community (and it deeply hurt Glen Blacow), my opinion can only be colored by the Gygax I saw.

    I do wonder how much of the diatribe in the Dragon was him not quite being himself. By the time he was writing some of that stuff, the struggle for control of TSR was in full swing.

    Frank

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  9. I think that's a very good insight, Frank: the more that Gary was losing back-end control of TSR, the more he was trying to reign in control of the game in the public arena. I'd have to look at the dates of the chronology of EGG's ouster and then compare it to his various attacks on Killer, APAs, Origins, GAMA, etc., etc., but I think you're definitely on to something....

    Allan.

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  10. I think that's a very good insight, Frank

    I agree. I don't think any circumstances excuse bad behavior, but they may ameliorate one's assessment of them. I do tend to think that Gary was one of those people in whom stress brought out the worst in him and he frequently led a very stressful life.

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  11. Out of curiosity would someone clarify what the APA community is? Amateur Press Associations (i.e. fanzines?) seems the best match to my web searches.

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  12. Yes APA = Amateur Press Association. By community I include the publishers, contributors, and subscribers.

    Frank

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  13. No internet in those days. You had to flame people in real life to get it out of your system. :)

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  14. Just to be contrary...

    This line of thought would imply that, by naming the Drow city Erelhei-Cinlu, Gary Gygax was announcing to the world that he believed his children were backstabbing cutthroats bent on world domination and variously consorting with demons.

    For a point of comparison, how are the other giant lords described and for whom are they named?

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  15. This line of thought would imply that, by naming the Drow city Erelhei-Cinlu, Gary Gygax was announcing to the world that he believed his children were backstabbing cutthroats bent on world domination and variously consorting with demons.

    I have two children, and that is a pretty fair description of them, at least on a bad day :). JK, but you never know what was going on at home the day he came up with the name..

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  16. I believe even in the recent Kask Q&A thread at Dragonsfoot, Gary was still taking pot shots, and seemed to be encouraging Tim Kask to really unload the bile on Arneson. So I'm not sure how this changed. For my part, it's like seeing parents fight. Why does there have to be this dark, secret animosity at the founding moments of our hobby?

    If we're deciding that D&D started to fail when it started to become a brand, maybe we should consider that Gygax was the first and loudest champion of that cause. We despise TSR's decisions with 2E, but they were just living in Erelhei Cinlu -- Gary created it.

    (Disclaimer: respect/nigh-on-worship the guy, mean no tarnishing, etc. etc.)

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  17. If we're deciding that D&D started to fail when it started to become a brand, maybe we should consider that Gygax was the first and loudest champion of that cause. We despise TSR's decisions with 2E, but they were just living in Erelhei Cinlu -- Gary created it.

    True. He wants a COROPRATION, a flames, his own vision (vide 1e). I'm REFEREE (not pathetic Dungeon Master or whatever) of OD&D for long time nad never saw AD&D as evolution.

    Maybe in a matter of I-have-monopoly-for-this-game and listen-to-me-don't-be-creative. Damn, I appreciate Gygax role in our hobby, but hell - HE was the begining of fall. D&D cartoon series? Pity Unearthed Arcana? Flame-in-real & Eliminate all third parties' products? Even precious ones, like Judges Guild? Damn, it's sooo capitalistic (not hobbystic) thinking.

    If I move up some tabu or sacrum - I don't care. OD&D is only true RPG text made of passion without marks od "$" in the eyes of creators.

    With all gratitude for Gary
    Jarl

    P.S. And James - thanks for another good, obiectivism post. :)

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  18. Pff. The D&D cartoon series was AWESOME!

    Yes, like everybody, Gygax could be a jerk. I have certainly said worse things of people I dislike in moments of weakness.

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  19. For a point of comparison, how are the other giant lords described and for whom are they named?

    The frost giant jarl is named Grugnur (no anagram that I can discern, instead by faux Norse) and he is not described at all. The fire giant king if called Snurre Iron Belly (again, no anagram that I can detect) and is set to be "far stronger than smart."

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  20. Yes, like everybody, Gygax could be a jerk. I have certainly said worse things of people I dislike in moments of weakness.

    As have I. I mentioned it here, because I was so gobsmacked when I read it that I felt it deserving of comment. Truth be told, I'm not sure Gary was any more mean spirited than most of us, but, being a public figure in the hobby, his missteps and indiscretions are much more apparent to us, even 25 years later.

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  21. You're assuming that that this was a one-sided thing. Both had little pokes and jabs at each other and at other people in their worlds.

    Arneson had the "EGG of Coot" as an evil demigod in Blackmoor, with a long and incredibly insulting description. In later years, Arneson claimed it was a parody of someone else, not E.G.G., but that seems disingenuous at best.

    Using someone who annoys you as a villain is hardly unusual or a character defect, that's how writers get many characters.

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  22. Mark,

    Absolutely! I've never been convinced that the Egg of Coot was not in fact a veiled reference to Gary, although Dave and his players have consistently maintained that it was a reference to a rather individual named Gregg Scott, who felt fantasy gaming was immature and inappropriate for grown men. (A description of the Egg, from Dave's own writings can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/havardfaa/Coot.html)

    In any case, I don't think Gygax is unique in what he did nor do I think he ought to be singled out for moral outrage. I simply found the description interesting, because it never clicked until just recently that this was a reference to Arneson.

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  23. It could very well be about Gregg Scott. Gregg founded GHQ models (micro-armour) here in the Twin Cities and I can believe him as being vociferous against Fantasy. It diverted customers from proper historical gaming. I've heard a few stories about him in a less than flattering light.

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