Friday, April 17, 2009

The Hobby and the Industry

That Dave Arneson wasn't more well known and widely regarded during his lifetime is something I've felt very acutely over the past week and reading a quote like the following only solidifies that feeling further:
"Dice and maps and figures and complicated rule books are a crutch. The game doesn't need them — but the market does," Arneson said in 1992.
There's a very important truth here and it's one I'm wrestling with rather powerfully at the moment.

60 comments:

  1. Dice are what makes it not JUST a fantasy -- I know that some things I attempt may not work -- and that adds mystery and suspense. For me, at least, that makes them essential.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Plus, I just plain *like* dice and maps (complicated rules and figures not so much).

    The "crutch" language implies that I'd enjoy my games more somehow if I didn't, and that seems like an iffy assumption at best, frankly.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't think the point of Arneson's quote is that it's wrong to like or use these things, but that, at its core, the activity of roleplaying doesn't require them. It goes hand in hand with another favorite Arneson quote of mine (which I'll paraphrase): "Back at the dawn of the hobby, there was just a referee with a chair and a gun."

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, sure. But the activity of roleplaying doesn't require anything but at least two people. No rulebooks of any length.

    I think perhaps that roleplaying *as we know it* might require just a little bit more, though. Rules, for one, even if they're just simple and flexible guidelines. Randomization might be number two on the list.

    If we don't insist on at least some structure and some accoutrements, the "dawn of the hobby" would date to prehistory, not the early 70s.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think this is true in a sense. However, gaming groups do benefit from inspiration. IMO, so far as material shares community ideas, it's worth making.

    But a staff of employees making supplements in order to maintain a staff of employees... That's not a viable model if your product is targeted at creative intelligent people.

    ReplyDelete
  6. If we don't insist on at least some structure and some accoutrements, the "dawn of the hobby" would date to prehistory, not the early 70s.And I don't think Arneson would disagree with that -- or Gygax, for that matter. I think they both would have acknowledged the continuity between childhood games like "cops 'n robbers" and the hobby. For myself, it's an important reminder not to forget that imagination is the only thing we really need to play. Maybe I'm alone in needing that reminder, I don't know.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I really see this as the challenge for the future of the hobby. On the one hand, none of us really need anything more. We could game our little hearts out with what's been published so far and have a great time doing it.

    On the other, I like having things like Fight On! I'd like to have more of it, but that's not really possible so long as these things remain largely volunteer publications. I'd love to write more on my blog, create new stuff for FO! and maybe branch out to Knockspell and the like. But at the end of the day, I don't have the time. I have to put food on the table and keep my lights on, and that means I have to choose business writing over game writing.

    The volume of stuff we're not getting because of this is probably huge. That we're getting anything at all is a tribute to the power of RPGs and talents of people like James and Jeff and Taichara and all the rest of us. And yeah, we're still playing. But, like James, I can't help but look at things like Pathfinder and think, "if only..."

    ReplyDelete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dave called it a crutch not a cancer. I can see how some groups can suffer by being to concerned about the extra's of role playing and not enough about character concept, development and story.
    This being said I am sure there are also some groups that thrive with things like figures maps and complex rules.
    Think about DMs you may have met that couldn't run a session unless it was handed to them in a module. Or players who couldn't think outside of a very narrow viewpoint without rules nudging them towards more action.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "For myself, it's an important reminder not to forget that imagination is the only thing we really need to play."

    I agree 100%, if we're talking about play in the abstract. I'm less sure that applies to participation is what RPG fans call "the hobby."

    As for hobby versus industry, you're still ultimately correct. Whether RPGs require no support tools or a modest minimal amount of the same, you still can't expect to make a limitless fortune sufficient to make entrepeneurs and corporate stockholders happy off of that.

    ReplyDelete
  11. "Dice and maps and figures and complicated rule books are a crutch. The game doesn't need them — but the market does," Arneson said in 1992.

    I'd say dice, maps and figurines are an ENHANCEMENT. Complicate rules may be a crutch, but rules of some sort define the game. You need them even if it's cops-and-robbers in the backyard.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Why all the angst over "crutch"?

    If you've ever severely sprained (or broken) a foot or had knee surgery, you learn to love the crutch!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love the quote. And its spirit is very true,although not literally so.But it brings in sharp relief the hobby v industry divide of our game.

    For instance, did we need all those splatbooks in 3e? Does 4e need all the "core" books its releasing again and again?

    Nope. Books can enhance or spark imagination, but at the end of the day, publishers put this out to make money.

    RPGs are a funny business. Its not like a CCG.Because once you release the rules, you really don't need too much else, something WOTC is learning now I think.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'll say this: Arneson's list is ordered from least-plausible to most-plausible in terms of actual unnecessity.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Just to mix it up, the quote says 'rule books'. Doesn't say anything about supplements or other material. Taken literally, one could assume he meant the mechanics weren't important compared to the mythology--which certainly could be essential to playing.

    But even source materials could be considered ancillary, since one could 'make stuff up' without them. I'm sure Dave wouldn't object to shared/published material though since, he, uh, did both.

    /did I just debate myself??
    //anyway, you get the idea

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ignoring how much I may agree with Dave’s statement, from what I’ve read, this is very much how Dave approached the game. There’s a reason why Gary was the one who wrote the books and got them published.

    (And even as entrepreneurial as Gary was, he seemed to struggle a bit with finding a balance between the hobby and the industry.)

    “...you still can't expect to make a limitless fortune sufficient to make entrepeneurs and corporate stockholders happy off of that.

    Yeah. Not being an businessman myself, perhaps I have no standing to speak to this, but this seems clear to me. You can’t treat RPG publishing as a business unto itself. You have to treat is as part of a wider business. Rather than figuring out how to make it more profitable, you need to figure out how to size and structure that part of your business to build a lasting market.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Dave is quite correct. The one thing you cannot remove from the hobby without destroying the hobby is imagination. You can play without dice (and there are several RPGs that do that very successfully), and many groups skip the maps and miniatures already.

    The one addiction few gaming groups can shake is the "complicated rule books." Even those in the old school movement are in the market for more supplements, more magazines, more of everything. The scary truth is, though, that nobody needs professional publishing companies to provide any of these things. In fact, I would submit that the more rules, the more pages, the more words that get added to a game, the more likely that the game is going to collapse of its own weight. RPGs are best when kept small and simple.

    This is what the RPG publishers are terrified of -- that gamers will finally figure this out for themselves, and their entire business model will collapse, leaving the "gaming industry" in the hands of a few small groups who see it as a labor of love.

    Me? I fervently hope this happens.

    ReplyDelete
  18. The following is a strictly personal opinion:

    No dice, no game.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Jeff Rients said:

    "No dice, no game."

    Absolutely. I am into gaming for the game. IMHO RPGs are as much game as story. I like the idea of letting the game decide how the story goes (randomness of dice), otherwise it is just a group storytelling session. Nothing wrong with that, but then it's not a game.

    So I suppose that makes me "gamist" or whatever the terminology is, and I'll freely admit it. I enjoy the game aspect as much as stories that emerge from it.

    ReplyDelete
  20. If some of my 3e games are any indication, imagination is all-but optional too.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Yes, the game portion is important. I daresay I was attracted to D&D in the first place because it provided structure. I see the entire point of the tabletop RPG as getting away from "freeform" storytelling.

    As far as industry vs hobby... I agree that more and more rules and add-ons isn't good. However, more general-usage gaming aids and adventures (with plenty of detail!) are excellent support products, as they don't change what the game is and aren't required to "keep up."

    ReplyDelete
  22. So I suppose that makes me "gamist" or whatever the terminology is, and I'll freely admit it. I enjoy the game aspect as much as stories that emerge from it.

    Again, I don't think Dave was saying otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I see the entire point of the tabletop RPG as getting away from "freeform" storytelling.

    Well, it's certainly the entire history of the hobby, but I'm not sure I'd say it's the point of it.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Looking at say OD&D versus D&D 4E with its reliance on minis, five-inch-squares, and strict wording of rules...the "stuff" gets in the way of the "cops and robbers" aspect of a largely imagination-driven game. Where the former is largely free-form and imaginative...the latter is closer to playing RISK. Dice are fun, minis are fun, maps and rules teaks can be fun...but I think it's very easy to get wrapped up in the ritual aspects of religion and miss the meaning behind it. Err...sorry...wandered there.

    ;)
    My point and I think what DA was shooting for is that all these "things" such as dice and maps and rules are there to support and enhance the imaginative aspect...not the other way around.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Well, I don't think Arneson and Gygax were entirely on the same wavelength. I'm under the impression that even though they both came from wargame roots, at least in the early days Arneson may have leaned a little more in the freeform direction and Gary more on the structured rules side. Mind you I am talking about earlier in Gygax's career. I think at the end of his life he had come full circle.

    But I do see the point, and I think James you are essentially getting at the ultra-commercialism of RPGs. You have to remember that in the early days some of the top TSR guys were making HUGE amounts of money. What started as essentially a hobby effort that might make a living made them rich, at least for a while. So the history of it is tied to money, and I think Arneson was a little bitter about it (from what I've read elsewhere) as he was pretty much shut out. I'd hesitate to over interpret what anyone has to say.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Well, I don't think Arneson and Gygax were entirely on the same wavelength. ...”

    Yeah. That’s what I was trying to say.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'd hesitate to over interpret what anyone has to say.

    I agree -- not that that will stop anyone from doing so, myself included.

    ReplyDelete
  28. In this context I assume he's saying you don't need to buy shiny new products to play the game. Those items support the market, but do nothing to change playing the game or using the D&D concept. I don't assume for a second that he is saying you can play D&D without dice and maps. Use old six siders and draw your own maps. Likewise with the "complicated rule books" bit. Just use the D&D concept and make your game, don't buy someone else's version of the concept.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Gygax and Arneson...yin and yang of approaches to gaming? Hmmm...that is getting way to philosophical for me! I am frimly in the "dice are a must" category and my players would certainly agree!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Dice, maps, figures, rule books, supplements... they're all just tools.

    Now, some of the tools are fancy and over-powered, some are stripped down and minimalistic. I mean, you CAN pound in a nail with a rock, but a good hammer makes it go faster.

    I love cooking, so I sometimes see these kinds of discussions through that lens. Do you NEED a set of German knives, French copper pans, and all that jazz? Nope... not only do you not "need" it, some of it is worse than useless. You can cook great food with cheap-ass Dexter knives and no-name Wal-Mart pans... but some of that cheap stuff makes life miserable.

    So, the "art" with cooking and D&D is paring away the useless (and often over-priced, over-complicated, and over-fancy) shiny crap and focusing on the solid, dependable, core tools that you'll use forever.

    (for instance, anybody who lays a finger on my knives or cast iron skillet risks serious bodily harm ... and anybody who takes away my dice and hex paper risks similar injury)

    ReplyDelete
  31. James, I am a fan of your blog and try to read it daily. But, you are inching onto a slippery slope. Any quotes from the co-founders of D&D need attribution (date said and to whom) as their opinions and viewpoints changed considerable over 36 years, even month to month. Where you have a quote to support your speculations, there may exist many more quotes of a more recent vintage that may invalidate your conclusions. Conversations of Mr Gygax and Mr Arneson did not occur in a vacuum.

    While I have found some of your speculations amazing perceptive, others are dead wrong. One must be careful of unreleased interviews held until all parties are deceased. Care must be taken, and due diligence paid.

    The safest quotes from the co-founders of D&D are "Have FUN and thank you for gaming." They never did go back on those statements.

    Thank you for the use of your Blog and as always All the best.

    ReplyDelete
  32. @Rick, agreed that attribution helps. And this is a rare case, but when I met Dave and saw him speak in June 2008 his views were still in line with the quote in the post. I think, from what I've read that Gary was the more mercurial of the two. Dave was pretty set in his opinions. I don't think either of them wavered on their shared preference for rules-light systems.

    To come to James defense (not as though you need it!) I think he does a pretty good job on the diligence part. I took this post to be meant to inspire discussion--less so to be a historical analysis. Am I right James?

    ReplyDelete
  33. @Rick, while I often disagree with James' assertions, I see no fault or harm here. This is an opinion blog and I wholly respect James' and anyone else right to discuss their views on any given subject as long as nobody makes the claim "this is what was meant" because really...nobody can say for certain. It's all opinion. Sometimes educated, sometimes surmised but ultimately opinion.

    Safe is boring. If all anyone can really discuss is "Have FUN and thank you for gaming." then really there's no point in discussion. It's the vagueness and vacillating statements that make determining true intent difficult...and brings all these opinions up and makes the discussions interesting.

    I don't think anyone is trampling any graves here.

    ReplyDelete
  34. And, I had a friend who spoke to Dave around the same time, when he agreed that sometimes he likes to poke the bear with his comments.

    How do we, the reader, know what is fact and what is fantasy ?

    ReplyDelete
  35. I took this post to be meant to inspire discussion--less so to be a historical analysis. Am I right James?

    You are correct. I post lots of things here that are the equivalent of me "thinking aloud," except that I invite others to comment. Yet, for some reason, whenever I do this, I'm pretty much guaranteed to get at least a few people who see it as my asserting an inerrant truth for all time. I'm not sure whether to be flattered or offended by this, but I am learning to see it as an occupational hazard.

    ReplyDelete
  36. @James That's pretty much what it is. You stick it out there and I can guarantee somebody will either step on it or be offended.

    Meh, it is what it is. What can you do? You can't please everyone. I certainly think you make sufficient effort to try and be conscientious without sacrificing the blog to either being meely-mouthed or caustic.

    I wouldn't worry about it. Water off a duck's back and all that.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Quite true and Jeff is right: safe is boring, that is where the sheep are.

    Diving into the storm and testing the waters is what pushes life (and dicussion) forward.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Well as my grade school swim instructor would yell at the top of her lungs: keep your head in the water and KICK!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Huh -- the part of the quote that jumped out at me was "but the market does." I interpreted that to mean that the game itself only calls for some rules upfront and an ongoing investment of creativity, and packaging rules and creativity as marketable products is artificial and not strictly necessary.

    I think the Internet has really highlighted this reality. Enthusiasts are willing to share their own "splat" content for free, or close to it, so what is the relevance of $30 expansions? A gamer doesn't really need more than one core rulebook or dice set per decade, and that doesn't seem like a basis for a sustainable business. For that matter you can get decent core rules for free from the Internet, too.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I think there is a strong impulse in retrospect to differentiate Gygax and Arneson philosophically, but I think doing so runs the risk of stereotyping both of them. I imagine Gygax to be saying much the same thing when he remarked that "The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules."

    I always took that to mean pretty much the same as the above Arneson quote.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not looking to “philosophically differentiate” Dave and Gary. I too immediately thought of Gary’s quote.

    And I think Dan certainly tried to minimize the distinction he was making. “...may have leaned a little more...”

    Everything I’ve read about Dave, however, makes me think that this quote really reflects a fairly constant attitude of his towards the game. One which I’d hazard to say is more free-form than most of us are comfortable with.

    I’m very tempted to say—in the theme of the title of this post—that Dave was the father of the hobby while Gary was the father of the industry.

    Which wouldn’t be meant to disparage either of them or to ignore the large imperfections of any such generalization. It wouldn’t be meant to suggest more of a difference between them than there was. Or to suggest that they both didn’t make significant contributions in both areas.

    In any case, I think we are enriched by the differences they certainly did have—as Mike Mornard said: Arneson always used figures; Gary never did—however small or great.

    ReplyDelete
  42. "I don't think either of them wavered on their shared preference for rules-light systems."

    Dangerous Journeys, and to a lesser degree Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Lejendary Adventure, and Cyborg Commando, suggest otherwise.

    (That said, I am a huge Gygax fan and something of a partisan of his side in the 'credit wars'. But I couldn't let that pass unremarked...)

    ReplyDelete
  43. Dice are interesting. I insist upon them... I won't play this "diceless" nonsense.

    But I don't like the "roll for everything" school, either. "Roll to see it." No, how about I just tell you where I look?

    I've actually seen people tell the GM "I say something impressive." "Well, what do you say?" "I don't know. I'll just roll my Charisma." That's the wrong approach! I don't mind saying that's wrong. In fact, I know of a player of a tactician character who actually told the GM to come up with a good plan for him, because his character is a tactical genius but he's not!

    That's where dice aren't needed. Tell me what you do. Tell me what you say. Then something logical will happen.

    So Dave was right. Dice can be a crutch. But they're also indispensible.

    ReplyDelete
  44. James, if I might combine your last two blogs for moment.

    Dear Paizo:

    Please make a simple, short Pathfinder Basic game. Give it away on your website. (Sell printed copies too, of course.)

    Then the sell pdf's and books featuring enhancements, monsters, settings, and adventures.

    License out the property for books and toys, maybe TV and movies later.

    Profit? Might happen, given the quality of your material.

    I know this is your basic business plan with 3e/Pathfinder, but it's not going to happen with that rules set as is. It doesn't have any appeal beyond 3e grognards. Simplify the rules and encourage DIY.

    Expand the hobby.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Another way of looking at Dave's comment might be to see it as a reminder to the DM: When you are in the middle of a session (or planning for a session) be prepared to ditch the rules or the dice or the maps to do something cool that otherwise wouldn't quite work.

    It *could* be seen as a version of the 4e mantra "Say yes" -- and don't just say yes to your players, but to yourself as DM.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Matthew James Stanham said...

    "I think there is a strong impulse in retrospect to differentiate Gygax and Arneson philosophically, but I think doing so runs the risk of stereotyping both of them."

    You are absolutely right, and I definitely don't want to do that. As I said, we should be careful about reading too much into various quotes, and anyway, I think there is way too much energy placed into trying to figure out how Arneson or Gygax played so we can replicate it...we should be just playing the way we like, because I think we all can agree that's what they would want anyway.

    In addition, note that Gary ran a game for many years, even up until his death, so there is little need to speculate how he played when we can simply ask those who were in his group!

    ReplyDelete
  47. In the past, when my game was failing and my GMing sucked, I bought more stuff. I collected rule books like they were comics and fetishized dice. When I focused too much on the material aspect my game was all style and no substance. My table looked great but nothing was happening.

    My guess is that Arneson was talking about this kind of thing. Ive scaled back. I need good gamers and good ideas. I like simple dice, a composition book, and the Labyrinth Lord rules. Everything else ...

    ReplyDelete
  48. I think the Internet has really highlighted this reality. Enthusiasts are willing to share their own "splat" content for free, or close to it, so what is the relevance of $30 expansions? A gamer doesn't really need more than one core rulebook or dice set per decade, and that doesn't seem like a basis for a sustainable business. For that matter you can get decent core rules for free from the Internet, too.

    I think this is absolutely correct and it's the real challenge facing the RPG industry today. It's also why I increasingly think that there's a split in the hobby between those who approach gaming as a DIY activity and those who see it as another form of mass-produced consumer entertainment.

    ReplyDelete
  49. I think there is a strong impulse in retrospect to differentiate Gygax and Arneson philosophically, but I think doing so runs the risk of stereotyping both of them. I imagine Gygax to be saying much the same thing when he remarked that "The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules."

    I think the thing to bear in mind is that, far more than Dave, Gary's perspective on the hobby and its relationship to the industry changed over time. That's not to say his views were necessarily inconsistent or lacking in nuance -- though they often could be -- but I don't think much is gained by downplaying the very real differences in their styles and preferences, because they did exist and were, in some cases, quite significant.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Everything I’ve read about Dave, however, makes me think that this quote really reflects a fairly constant attitude of his towards the game. One which I’d hazard to say is more free-form than most of us are comfortable with.

    That's my feeling as well, on both points. I'm not sure I could stomach a purely "Arnesonian" RPG campaign, but I think the approach Dave seems to have preferred is an important counterpoint to tendencies many of us give into far too often. Like Dave Hargrave, whose approach is also not quite my cup of tea, Dave Arneson was a much needed "loyal opposition" that I personally find very attractive right now.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Dice can be a crutch. But they're also indispensible.

    Yep. This is another one of those seeming contradictions that many people just can't get beyond, but, for me, it's an important element of the Old Ways and one I need to be reminded of from time to time, lest I fall into bad habits.

    ReplyDelete
  52. "I think the thing to bear in mind is that, far more than Dave, Gary's perspective on the hobby and its relationship to the industry changed over time. That's not to say his views were necessarily inconsistent or lacking in nuance -- though they often could be -- but I don't think much is gained by downplaying the very real differences in their styles and preferences, because they did exist and were, in some cases, quite significant."

    Maybe so, but the obverse is also true, which is to say I do not think anything is gained from exaggerating the differences. As we have noted here before, the real trick with Gygax is recognising that he had multiple faces, and that these were synonymous, rather than successive.

    We are also much more familiar with Gygax than Arneson, so we see one from a greater distance than the other, and this helps to obscure the details. There seems to be a great rush of late to construct these personalities in the wake of their deaths, and I find it quite worrisome.

    ReplyDelete
  53. There seems to be a great rush of late to construct these personalities in the wake of their deaths, and I find it quite worrisome.I don't really see anyone putting forward differences that weren't apparent even before their deaths. I'm a pretty strong Gygax partisan, but that doesn't make me unable to recognize that there things Gary did when he was in charge that were detrimental to the hobby side of the equation. That he undertook them without malice or any perception of what they'd bring doesn't make them ex post facto exaggerations.

    ReplyDelete
  54. "I don't really see anyone putting forward differences that weren't apparent even before their deaths. I'm a pretty strong Gygax partisan, but that doesn't make me unable to recognize that there things Gary did when he was in charge that were detrimental to the hobby side of the equation. That he undertook them without malice or any perception of what they'd bring doesn't make them ex post facto exaggerations."

    Well, I would say that now you are exaggerating my objection. ;)

    Gygax certainly made business decision meant to drive the company, and that is undeniable. That these were simultaneously more detrimental to the hobby than beneficial is a debatable issue, but even assuming that such is the case, I am not seeing a difference here between Gygax and Arneson, so much as a difference between the Gygax and Arneson we are holding up for examination.

    To put it another way, your own Gygax partisanship is itself a construction, as are all of our perceptions of these two personalities. That being the case, we are now in the process of moving away from the real people and turning them into debate elements.

    To be clear, I have no issue with your actual post, I just think it is a self evident truth recognised by the majority of parties involved in the industry.

    ReplyDelete
  55. That being the case, we are now in the process of moving away from the real people and turning them into debate elements.

    Doesn't this logic then suggest that it's impossible to make any kinds of analyses that aren't simply constructions? I can't imagine that's what you mean, because it would prevent anyone's being able to examine the words and actions of historical personages in a meaningful way.

    ReplyDelete
  56. "Doesn't this logic then suggest that it's impossible to make any kinds of analyses that aren't simply constructions? I can't imagine that's what you mean, because it would prevent anyone's being able to examine the words and actions of historical personages in a meaningful way."

    Of course not, but there is a disconnect between the constructions we create and the people we purport to represent the views of. That does not mean that the constructions are useless, it just means we ought to recognise them for what they are, especially when we use them.

    In the case of Arneson and Gygax, we have a much greater sum of evidence from which to evaluate the views of the latter, and we can perceive (or think we may) a shift in his views over the years, not to mention that we have half a hundred different lenses to view him through. It is almost like the difference between Caesar and Vercingetrix (I exaggerate, I know).

    However, the point remains the same. The stability of views we may perceive in Arneson, contrasted with an instability in Gygax smacks to me of rhetoric convenience, and strikes me as more to do the disproportionate amount of evidence we have available to us than a true evaluation of their relative views.

    ReplyDelete
  57. The stability of views we may perceive in Arneson, contrasted with an instability in Gygax smacks to me of rhetoric convenienceI guess we'll just have to disagree on this point. Firstly, I don't see anyone, least of all myself, trying to paint Gary as the bad guy and Dave as the good guy in the epic battle for the soul of the hobby. Secondly, while it's true there's a relative paucity of direct quotes from Arneson compared to Gygax, we do have enough quotes over a large enough period of time that I think it's possible to get a good sense of his overall philosophy. It's not as if Dave was a hermit for the last 30 years or kept his opinions to himself.

    Much like Dave Hargrave, there's a lot that Arneson espoused that I don't much care for. But I think they both provided useful counterpoints to the mass market commoditized philosophy TSR eventually adopted. I don't think that's merely a rhetorical convenience and I certainly don't intend it as something so facile as that.

    ReplyDelete
  58. "Firstly, I don't see anyone, least of all myself, trying to paint Gary as the bad guy and Dave as the good guy in the epic battle for the soul of the hobby."

    I don't believe I said that you did. Indeed, you picked up my comments which were directed to preceding discussion, not the other way around.

    "Secondly, while it's true there's a relative paucity of direct quotes from Arneson compared to Gygax, we do have enough quotes over a large enough period of time that I think it's possible to get a good sense of his overall philosophy. It's not as if Dave was a hermit for the last 30 years or kept his opinions to himself."

    Indeed not, but I am not suggesting that is the case. I am saying, however, that the evidence is unbalanced. Whether we can thus get a "good sense" of his philosophy towards RPGs is up for debate.

    "Much like Dave Hargrave, there's a lot that Arneson espoused that I don't much care for. But I think they both provided useful counterpoints to the mass market commoditized philosophy TSR eventually adopted. I don't think that's merely a rhetorical convenience and I certainly don't intend it as something so facile as that."

    Rhetorical convenience does not have to be facile; indeed, it can be useful without necessarily being a true representation of the views of the participants. As with Gygax, blurbs from Hargrave and Arneson are almost always interesting and frequently useful, but I think taht generalising them to the level of philosophy is hazardous, and runs the risk of stereotyping the individuals.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Matthew,

    I feel like we're going around in circles here, so I'm just going to bow out of this conversation for now. Others are welcome to continue it, of course, but I'm pretty sure I don't have anything useful to add to what I've already said.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Fair enough; I think this sort of debate is better suited to a larger forum in any case. As I say, though, it is not that I disagree with the sentiments, I am just wary of the tendency to segregate these individuals into philosophical boxes, especially post mortem.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.