Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ritual Purity

So the latest issue of Fight On! is out -- probably the best one to date -- and all everyone's talking about is a four-page editorial cum advertisement by Ron Edwards, intellectual godfather of The Forge (and, I am reliably told by telepaths on the Internet, my secret ally in plotting the destruction of old school gaming).

On one level, the reaction to Edwards's article is unsurprising. He's generally been no ally of those of us who prefer older games and older styles of play. Nor does he, by his own admission, have much experience playing D&D, which is (at present anyway) the cornerstone of most discussions of old school gaming. The actual contents of his piece range from the interesting (his reminiscences of the gaming scene in 1970s California) to the laughable (his unsubstantiated assertion that either Geoffrey McKinney or Jim Raggi -- or indeed anyone in the old school renaissance -- bowed to "Victorian societal values" in their offerings).

Once you get beyond that -- and I admit that my first reaction was incredulity too -- what's the big deal? Fight On! is the flagship publication of the old school movement and, as such, has always been a very "big tent." It's included articles by all sorts of people, many of whom disagree with one another quite vehemently. I'll readily admit that I've not cared for many of its submissions. Heck, I'll go farther and state that I'm not actually a fan of big tent philosophies in the first place, but, again, so what? There are still 120 other pages in issue 6, particularly the two awesome dungeon levels by David "Sham" Bowman and Tony "Wheggi" Rosten. In what way did Edwards's article, foolishly provocative and blatantly self-promoting though it was, take away from the rest of the issue's amazing contents?

The real "crime" here is that Edwards's editorial was a missed opportunity. Despite all the hue and cry, there are a lot of similarities between the indie RPG movement and the old school renaissance, starting with the wholesale rejection of the corporate model of RPG design and the embrace of new methods of distribution. There's a lot we could learn from each other. Moreover, I consider Ron Edwards's Sorcerer & Sword to be a fascinating examination of the swords-and-sorcery genre. My many quibbles with that book aside, Edwards is clearly a thoughtful writer and a fan of many of the same literary sources the old school loves so dearly.

His Fight On! piece could have been so much better than it was. He could have drawn on his early gaming memories, his love of S&S stories, and his wealth of experience in shepherding the indie RPG movement to offer some useful insights to us in the old school revival. What we got instead was a bit of agitprop riddled with factual errors and used to promote his new game. It's all so disappointingly pedestrian. Edwards's piece isn't a bad piece because it was written by Ron Edwards; it's a bad piece because it's so poorly written and nakedly self-serving.

What a shame.

170 comments:

  1. I'm not sure I support paying for poorly written and nakedly self-serving material that's normally posted on blogs and forums for free.

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  2. Despite his views on D&D - which often border on parody - I'm actually quite curious to see what Edwards has to say. He's usually, at the very least, an interesting read.

    I am now two issues behind with Fight On! I need to catch up.

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  3. Stop reading about at about two-thirds of the way in, and you've actually got an interesting article there.

    I wholly disagree with him on "JER4 and Geoffrey McKinley: cowards!" position. As I understand it the "Esoteric Creature Generator" was edited by mutual agreement. "Expurgated Carcosa" is still a worthwhile read sans distracting ritual squick.

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  4. The less said about it, likely the better.

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  5. I do think that you are right -- there should be more overlap and common cause between the Indie and OSR movements. I think that part of both, as you point out, is a DIY reaction against a corporate culture and distribution system that takes away the "burden" of individual creativity and replaces it with endless campaign guides, rulebooks, and an avalanche of "core" material.

    In the ideals that the end user is a co-creator, and that the game's author and publisher are facilitators rather than the providers of the gaming experience, there should be a better sense of common cause.

    The worst part -- other than his downshift into ad copy, which I originally thought was a joke -- is that he argues that if your taste does not run to "the hallucinatory, gory, gleeful, sexy realm of fantasy" that you are trying to please Anita Bryant.

    The argument that there is a kind of "false consciousness" -- to turn a Marxist phrase -- that you are drinking the watered down version if it doesn't include these things, seems to go directly against the DIY and "forge your own path" ethos that is so important to the Indie and OSR movements.

    I liked the part about the 1970s gaming experience, and I think he is right that Nakesness and Monsters and a edge of sex and weirdness was a big part of those early days (when I was first playing and reading Warlock comics and Heavy Metal.)

    It could have been an effective piece describing and recommending people consider adding (or tolerating) those elements; but the obnoxiosuness of a clumsy "I dare you to be hard-core enough to buy my product (and if you don't you are either a scared little pansy or a crypto-fascist bookburner" ad spiel -- really did make this a lost opportunity.

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  6. The Professor is welcome in my eyes to contribute articles—he isn’t the first or last Forgie to grace the pages of the magazine. And while I didn’t care for the article, I can think of several contentious editorials from the pages of Dragon. Now if we get some good, rebutting editorials from the folks who didn’t care for it…

    But if the Mr. Edwards would like to take out an ad for his game, I think he should have to pay for it like anyone else.

    So as not to clutter, my initial response to the rest was here:

    http://www.rpgblog2.com/2009/09/thoughts-on-pushing-envelope.html

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  7. The argument that there is a kind of "false consciousness" -- to turn a Marxist phrase -- that you are drinking the watered down version if it doesn't include these things, seems to go directly against the DIY and "forge your own path" ethos that is so important to the Indie and OSR movements.

    That's because, at least in the case of the Forge/Indie movement, it's a lie. That movement isn't (and probably never was) really about DIY and forging your own path, it's all about following Ron and copying his methods and theories and making games he approves of.

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  8. Upon further reflection I think the decision to include Edward's article and the general manner in which Fight On! and some other "Old School" products seem to be presented is starting to feel very scenester.

    In that regard the Forge/Indie and OSR movements may have something in common... :)

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  9. I never even heard of the guy, but then I guess I am too busy just playing my own stuff these days. I never did look too deeply into what was going on in gaming outside my own games, anytime after the 80's, that is. Movement Schmoovment - I was ALWAYS old school.

    And I don't buy much of the new material that comes out these days (OK, I don't buy any. I am too spoiled by getting great things like the Old School Encounter Guide for free these days), and I for sure am not going to buy a fanzine that spends four pages hawking the products of a guy I never heard of.

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  10. Oh boy. Somewhere in Uruguay, the RPG Pundit is foaming at the mouth in an orgasmically epileptic fit of joyous rage.

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  11. Who cares what Ron Edwards says? He wrote Sorcerer, which is a great game. Beyond that, I know little about him.

    Sometimes I think the OSR needs to spend less time worry about its identity and what the other members are doing. Instead, they need to do their own thing in their own way. Old school style.

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  12. Is the text of this article, or the offending bits, online anywhere?

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  13. It could have been an effective piece describing and recommending people consider adding (or tolerating) those elements; but the obnoxiosuness of a clumsy "I dare you to be hard-core enough to buy my product (and if you don't you are either a scared little pansy or a crypto-fascist bookburner" ad spiel -- really did make this a lost opportunity.

    This pretty well encapsulates my feelings on the matter. Edwards seems to be of the opinion that the way he remembers gamers doing things in 1970s California is the only measure by which to judge the authenticity of the old school movement and that's just silly.

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  14. Hi guys! James, we always appreciate getting a shout out on your blog. Thanks also for letting us use your interview in #6 and for all your contributions over the past several issues as well.

    I think your idea about getting someone who's successfully published stuff in the indie scene to write an article helping OSR folks do the same might be useful. Not sure who the ideal choice would be - maybe Vincent Baker, Luke Crane, Jared Sorensen, Chad Underkoffler? Worth considering anyway, we'll mull it over. If people have suggestions please send them along.

    Brunomac, for what it's worth, the product hawking in question takes 1/2 of a page out of the 124 pages in the issue. We thought about asking RE to cut that, but the cover art was cool so we decided to roll with it. I guess I'd say just check out the table of contents and see if there's stuff you can use in your game there.

    Fight on!

    Ignatius

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  15. Now if we get some good, rebutting editorials from the folks who didn’t care for it…

    That would be both awesome and, I think, much needed. Plus, old guy that I am, I have a certain fondness for the slow-mo flame wars via the letters pages of old. That'd be a nice tradition to see revived!

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  16. That movement isn't (and probably never was) really about DIY and forging your own path, it's all about following Ron and copying his methods and theories and making games he approves of.

    That could well be; I don't follow the ins and outs of the Forge. I can only say that, regardless of what Edwards's wishes may or may not have been on any topic, the movement he helped promote did inspire a lot of people to make and sell their own RPGs. I can't see that as anything but positive.

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  17. That's because, at least in the case of the Forge/Indie movement, it's a lie. That movement isn't (and probably never was) really about DIY and forging your own path, it's all about following Ron and copying his methods and theories and making games he approves of.

    You had to be "that guy," huh? I suppose any intraweb discussion mentioning the Forge wouldn't be right without one.

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  18. Sometimes I think the OSR needs to spend less time worry about its identity and what the other members are doing. Instead, they need to do their own thing in their own way. Old school style.

    Well, the OSR is young enough that an identity crisis is inevitable, especially now that the movement has garnered a lot of attention, particularly from folks who either weren't there back at the beginning (I include myself here FWIW) or whose experiences were different from those most of us remember. It's frustrating sometimes, to be sure, but then so is adolescence and that usually turns out OK in the end :)

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  19. Is the text of this article, or the offending bits, online anywhere?

    No.

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  20. James,

    Given what a small part of the issue this is I guess we would appreciate it if you did a fuller review later, once you've had time to read and digest it at greater length. Either way thanks for all your good work!

    Calithena

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  21. Given what a small part of the issue this is I guess we would appreciate it if you did a fuller review later, once you've had time to read and digest it at greater length.

    I do plan on it, although I'm always wary of reviewing anything I had even a small hand in producing. I catch enough flak about the way I do things as it is.

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  22. Edwards seems to be of the opinion that the way he remembers gamers doing things in 1970s California is the only measure by which to judge the authenticity of the old school movement and that's just silly.

    Having just suffered through some of the man's writing at indie-rpgs.com, I halfway-disagree with this characterization. Self-satisfied and jargon-obsessed as e.g. this essay makes him seem, his attitude toward D&D doesn't seem to be about 'authenticity' at all. Indeed, the article I linked sounds exactly like some of the stuff you've written here, James, with the crucial difference that he thinks DIY D&D is still D&D and therefore inadequate from an experience-design standpoint. His version of D&D history resembles yours, minus any idea that 'old = original = important = correct,' which does seep into e.g. your Gygax memorials/hagiography.

    His bitching about Carcosa and LotFP as related by Raggi et al. sounds stupid, ill-judged. The man isn't hardcore, we can all agree. But then neither is any of us. Not even close to being close to being hardcore, in fact. When the name-calling and Forge-bashing fades, that fact and its uncomfortable ramifications will remain. Which is why James's post today is excellent, and does not respond to the outlook/argument that (I think) underlies his chest-puffery, i.e. 'D&D is an incoherent jumble, and improvements in its ruleset over time have actually made other aspects of it worse, and honestly this ugly nostalgia-baby is no great loss if it means being rid of this puerile metaphorical bathwater.' Or, um, something like that. :)

    (I admit, I didn't know the level of vitriol that existed between the Forge kids and the OSR types. I rather wish I still didn't.)

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  23. RE: I think your idea about getting someone who's successfully published stuff in the indie scene to write an article helping OSR folks do the same might be useful.

    Well, at the risk of appearing arrogant as hell-

    *I was an unpublished author who self-published his first gaming work on RPGNow in 2001.

    *I've been a full-time freelance writer since 2002.

    *I've written d20, non-d20, board games and OSR books for Mystic Eye Games, Ronin Arts, Green Ronin and Mongoose.

    *I've been nominated for several Ennies.

    I think I'm indie, and I'm definitely published, though I know just writing for d20 makes me not eligible for that in some eyes.

    rpgchuck at gmail dot com

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  24. (I admit, I didn't know the level of vitriol that existed between the Forge kids and the OSR types. I rather wish I still didn't.)

    It doesn't -- or rather it doesn't except in a few specific cases. I'd wager that 80-90% of the folks involved in the OSR hadn't even heard of Edwards before this brouhaha erupted. Of the 10-20% who did, I expect many disagreed with him and his theories in the same way that they disagreed with many other game design theories. The vitriol, such as it is, exists in only a subset of a subset of the overall old school movement. It's just the loudness of some of those who dislike Edwards that makes it seem far more acute a thing than it actually is.

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  25. @RPGChuck: But are you a "cool kid"?

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  26. Hi Chuck!

    If you think you can write a good article advising people writing old-school fantasy products how to develop, print, market, sell, etc. their goods, please send it along by all means! Actually, that would go to anyone reading this with similar experiences - we can always present it as a series of articles, or over several issues. Thanks for considering it!

    - Cal (ithena at gmail dot com)

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  27. RE: @RPGChuck: But are you a "cool kid"?

    No :((

    My career goal is to be the "new hotness" for 48 hours, then fade into obscurity like JD Salinger.

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  28. @James: What are you using OSR to refer to? I get the feeling it's not "people who like older edition RPGs" and something more narrowly focused. :)

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  29. The vitriol, such as it is, exists in only a subset of a subset of the overall old school movement. It's just the loudness of some of those who dislike Edwards that makes it seem far more acute a thing than it actually is.

    Roger dodger.

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  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  31. remembers gamers doing things in 1970s California<

    OK, James, can you give a better idea of what that California thing is? I'm a Californian and started as a kid in the late 70's. Spending a lot of my childhood at Aero Hobbies in Santa Monica, I could only describe those California games as "sucky, boring-ass games run by snarky, pretentious older dudes."

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  32. What are you using OSR to refer to? I get the feeling it's not "people who like older edition RPGs" and something more narrowly focused. :)

    Actually, I use the term very broadly to cover everyone who, over the last few years, has been involved in the revival of interest in games published before 1990 or thereabouts. The OSR is mostly an online phenomenon at the moment, though. I expect the average gamer still plugging away at his 20 year-old 1e game probably has even less awareness of Ron Edwards and the Forge than most of the guys writing blogs, posting to forums, and producing old school PDFs and POD products.

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  33. Wally-

    I expect the vitriol some folks have for Ron Edwards might stem from him saying D&D players were mentally retarded and then comparing us to child abuse survivors.

    I'm not certain here, but it is a possibility.

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  34. Stuart -

    I really think you're barking up the wrong tree here. I myself am pretty much the epitome of uncool, a fat old married white guy who plays with minis and old fantasy games, and while not all of our contributors are fat, many of us are not cool. The people who get published are by and large the people who send us articles, and generally when we don't publish people it's because we have too much of the same thing in the same issue, as happened in #6 with minidungeons and skill systems. Then it just goes back into the queue for the next issue.

    Fortunately most of the people who write for us do a really good job, and Ig is a decent editor.

    - Cal

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  35. "When the name-calling and Forge-bashing fades, that fact and its uncomfortable ramifications will remain."

    But much of it is not Forge-bashing. It is Fight On!- and "OSR"-bashing through a Forge proxy. People who didn't have the balls before to come out and say Fight On! sucks are now using this opportunity to make themselves heard. I mean:
    "That's the main problem I had with the issues of FO! I've seen (the first 4) -- it seemed more like a collection of people showing off how cool and different their stuff was (and establishing themselves as part of the "cool kids" OSR clique -- "we're not like those broing old Gygax-lovers") than providing stuff that other people could (and would want to) actually use in their own games."

    "I heard the new Fight On! was out and I was going to buy the PDF, but the presentation is more concerned with telling me all the famous Bloggers that have contributed content rather than what's actually inside that I could use in a game. The decision to get famous Ron "Gamers are all Brain Damaged" Edwards content included is just a symptom of that.

    The more I think about this and other things about some parts of the OSR scene the more it concerns me."

    "Upon further reflection I think the decision to include Edward's article and the general manner in which Fight On! and some other "Old School" products seem to be presented is starting to feel very scenester.

    In that regard the Forge/Indie and OSR movements may have something in common... :)"

    Plus Pundit, again.

    No, I say, it is not Ron Edwards these types are after. So much for some misconceptions about this part of the hobby being about shared creativity - but I say, let it burn, let it all burn if it was an illusion.

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  36. OK, James, can you give a better idea of what that California thing is? I'm a Californian and started as a kid in the late 70's.

    Not being a Californian, I can only tell you the way it's always been described to me. Take it as you will.

    By legend, the gaming scene in 1970s California was more freeform and experimental than it was either on the East Coast or in the Midwest. Writers like Dave Hargrave and Greg Stafford are the iconic representations of this approach. Supposedly, it took a less hidebound approach to fantasy, one that borrowed mercilessly from a variety of pop cultural sources and that was a lot more irreverent in its approach to those sources.

    Whether that's an accurate reflection or a myth, I can't say, but that's what lots of gamers who were there at the time say, so I assume there's at least some truth to it.

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  37. >I expect the average gamer still plugging away at his 20 year-old 1e game probably has even less awareness of Ron Edwards and the Forge<

    YO. 30 years, though.

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  38. I'm not certain here, but it is a possibility.

    Don't misunderstand me: there is good basis for some of the vitriol. As I said, Edwards has never come across as a big fan of old school gaming generally or D&D in particular (people can cite proof to the contrary if I'm mistaken about this). However, the number of old schoolers who are aware of Edwards's comments on any topic, let alone on old school D&D are so small as to be negligible. I firmly believe that, by and large, the seeming contempt in which old schoolers hold Edwards is the product of just a few rather vocal folks who have a score to settle with him.

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  39. I expect the vitriol some folks have for Ron Edwards might stem from him saying D&D players were mentally retarded and then comparing us to child abuse survivors.

    No, no, you have your information wrong he said that White Wolf players were brain-damaged abuse survivors!

    See, there is something that that Ron & the OSR community can agree on... :P

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  40. But much of it is not Forge-bashing. It is Fight On!- and "OSR"-bashing through a Forge proxy. People who didn't have the balls before to come out and say Fight On! sucks are now using this opportunity to make themselves heard.

    Bingo.

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  41. Well- I don't really have a score to settle- but I do think Edwards is an extremely odd choice to write an article for a D&D magazine.

    For both the reasons you mentioned- he's obscure and he's not well-disposed to D&D.

    It's roughly equivalent to getting the guy who directed Mazes and Monsters to write an article about the cool D&D movie he did, and then dish a little about working with a young Tom Hanks.

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  42. @Cal: Different scenes have different ways of being "cool". :)

    As I've already mentioned there's more focus being put into the names of the authors than the content itself. I'd have been more interested in hearing you say you had a B/X D&D Mer-creature PC race or an Arabian themed adventure (for example) in an upcoming issue than hearing that you hope to get more "micro-famous" game designers to write editorials or advice columns.

    Stepping away from the "Old School" blog for a couple of months makes it easier to notice some of the trends that are developing. There's definitely a shift to talking about the "OSR" as a mono-culture (James' comments about it having an identity crisis) and being more focused on the personalities within the community rather than the games themselves.

    I think that's the opposite of the DIY aesthetic that's such an important part of many RPGs.

    I look at Fight On! and compare it to Dragon (cause Fight On! and Knock Spell have picked up the torch), but I can't imagine having bought an issue of Dragon if it focused so much on the personality of the authors rather than the actual content itself.

    Keep in mind that I'm pointing all of this out because I want more people to get excited about these games. I see cliquey scensterism as the wrong way to go about doing that. :)

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  43. No, no, you have your information wrong he said that White Wolf players were brain-damaged abuse survivors!

    Interestingly, this mistake raises a good point: a lot of what outsiders "know" about Ron Edwards and the Forge is wrong. That's why I have a hard time believing there's much of a feud between OSR advocates and the Forge-ites. For the most part, we exist in our own separate universes and even those of us who are pretty well plugged in to wider gaming world can't keep up with everything. Unless you're a paranoiac, even the most zealous supporters of this or that approach to gaming aren't all that interested in what other gamers are doing, never mind trying to subvert it.

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  44. @Rafial: I thought he was talking about game-master controlled games and using WOD as his example.

    It's been years since I subjected myself to those articles, but I thought he was pretty explicitly talking about any game where the players could not exercise direct narrative control, which would certainly include D&D.

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  45. >one that borrowed mercilessly from a variety of pop cultural sources and that was a lot more irreverent in its approach to those sources<

    Huh. At the time I guess I just assumed that all gamers across America made constant Monty Python jokes and references while at the game table. And I assumed all the sexual innuendo that went down in the games was just because the guys never got laid.

    In all seriousness, I'm guessing that game styles/attitudes were different in others states just like a lot of things are different. I am personally a "California is The Best" type of guy in most things, but again, in my early gaming experiences most games I played in where sucky and boring. And waaaaaay too many Monty Python references.

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  46. @Melan: I put my name on my parts. Feel free to quote my parts directly.

    I'm not bashing old school games. I may be bashing some aspects of the online scene surrounding old school games though.

    It depends where the discussion goes. :)

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  47. I enjoyed reading the article, despite not agreeing with the author. I really have no idea what Ron and the Forge are all about, nor do I have a burning desire to learn about either.

    In hindsight it comes off as a big game plug, but I still like reading memories of other gamers in different scenes from the early days. Even if it ends up being about boobs.

    And thanks for the kind words about my submission, James.

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  48. Stuart makes a fair point. Much as I like seeing my name (occasionally) in the Fight On! advertising blurb, I do wonder if it should instead focus on the contents rather than the authors? "This issue: an awesome post-apocalyptic sandbox for Mutant Future and other similar games, featuring psychic nuns and a Bodhisattva Elvis!" That probably has more weight outside the OSR blogroll than Jeff Rients' name.

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  49. Stuart, my apologies for leaving your and T. Fosters's name off. You deserve to be credited as much for your contributions as anyone anywhere.

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  50. I think Stuart's point has a lot of merit, actually. There are reasons for doing it the way we've done it but probably the mag's at the point now where we can focus more on what's in it. There are always space issues - you can get more names and titles than descriptions into a shorter space. I will definitely mull this over. Thanks for the suggestion, Stuart!

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  51. kelvingreen said:
    Stuart makes a fair point. Much as I like seeing my name (occasionally) in the Fight On! advertising blurb, I do wonder if it should instead focus on the contents rather than the authors? "This issue: an awesome post-apocalyptic sandbox for Mutant Future and other similar games, featuring psychic nuns and a Bodhisattva Elvis!" That probably has more weight outside the OSR blogroll than Jeff Rients' name.

    I 100% agree. Is the above mentioned mutant future sandbox in this edition of Fight On? I might have to buy it now, just on the basis of that little blurb.

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  52. @Melan: No problem. I didn't want you to feel like you needed to keep pussyfooting around. :)

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  53. @Sean: No problem. Consider writing a blog post or something with all the descriptions of the articles and linking to that from your Lulu page. I ended up here at Grognardia because I was trying to find a review that said something more about what was in this issue. :)

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  54. Carl,

    Allow me to say without hyperbole that Jeff's sandbox is pure gold and well worth the price of admission in and of itself. Equally good are the two dungeons I mentioned in this post, along with a bunch of other little stuff.

    Much as I disliked the Edwards article, it's less than 4% of the total content of the issue and so much of it is excellent, excellent stuff that you'd have to be more of a fundamentalist than I supposedly I am to put off buying it just because of Ron Edwards's four pages.

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  55. Carl, indeed it is! There's lots of really good stuff in there, as always, but Jeff's Mutant Future piece is by far my favourite.

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  56. Just looking at the excerpts from Edwards (how dare anyone call him the "Professor"? how utterly ludicrous), once again we see that the Edwards / Forger take is a merely superficial analysis, tarted up with fancy words to make it sound smart.

    Forgers and Old Schoolers couldn't be more different. Forgers comport themselves as posing 'artistes' and design story games in which the mechanics bully you into playing in exactly one, insipid, fashion. Old Schoolers have a DIY ethic and present the game setting as an open avenue of possibility for the PCs to explore and make of what they will. The former is about limitation (and perhaps imitation) while looking hip and clever; the latter is about possibility while looking plain.

    Word Verification: "bless"

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  57. "You had to be 'that guy,' huh? I suppose any intraweb discussion mentioning the Forge wouldn't be right without one."

    -1 ad hominem

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  58. It's hard to discuss Mr. Edwards' ideas when his favorite hobby seems writing editorials where he goes out of his way to say outrageous (true or not) things that end up causing pointless and often heated arguments about the man himself.

    I have not read the article, but by judging the response it's classic Ron Edwards.

    People who have never heard of him should continue to do so, because his primary contribution to the hobby was making one game that people seem to like, helming a site that encouraged many other people to makes games themselves and utterly poisoning RPG discourse on the internet in regards to the topic of theory for the near future.

    Dude's a troll and my own post is proof of that.

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  59. (how dare anyone call him the "Professor"? how utterly ludicrous)

    To be fair, he is a professor. I believe his degree is in biology. I'll grant it's a bit silly to refer to him as "Professor" on a gaming forum, but he has at least earned the title.

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  60. Edwards seems to be of the opinion that the way he remembers gamers doing things in 1970s California is the only measure by which to judge the authenticity of the old school movement and that's just silly.

    He realizes the game was created in Wisconsin and tested by people in WI and Minnesota doesn't he?

    First they came for our dairy state motto, then they came for our D&D heritage!

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  61. Hi Melan,

    I've been ambivalent about FO! for awhile (ever since I finally got around to actually buying and reading the first four issues, or even before that -- it's part of what took me so long to make that purchase) and haven't made a secret of it (I know I had a brief exchange with Calithena about my concerns at K&K at the time issue #5 was released). To the extent I haven't dwelt on or gone into more detail about it previously has mostly been due to not wanting to antagonize Sean/Cali -- letting decorum take precedence over brutal honesty, the very lack of willingness to express criticism of stuff your "friends" produced that was discussed a few weeks back as one of the problems with the OSR.

    In a moment of weakness (or rather a couple moments of weakness, since I made essentially the same comment in two different locations a few minutes apart) I got caught up in the moment and let that decorum slip. That was probably a mistake.

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  62. @RPGObjects_chuck Ron's famous "brain damage" rant is (at least to my interpretation having read the original post) a reaction to the heavily plot oriented "The GM has a Story and he will Tell it to you, and you get to talk in funny voices" style of play that was epitomized & popularized by the WW games in the late 80's, early 90's. Of course being Ron, it also contains sweeping generalizations an inflammatory rhetoric that led to widespread recriminations, including at the Forge. But Ron's basic point, that all players at the table should be free to contribute without the stricture of a single-player mandated "story" I think has validity, whether that contribution comes in the form of player authority over character decisions & sandbox style exploration (OSR) or shared narration mechanics (certain types of "Story Games"), or something else.

    In fact, folks in the OSR have at times reacted against much the same thing, and the "enforced plot" playstyle was not by any means confined to WW games. Dragonlance is often seen as one of the early harbingers of that in the D&D world, and has received its own set of licks here.

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  63. Thanks for your intervention, James. Prior to moving to a different city to do something else, I was a professor as well (not a tenured professor, but a professor nonetheless). But I don't get to be "the Professor" of Old School or whatever it is I'm into. If I decide to take up the clarinet, I certainly won't be referred to in clarinet circles as "the Professor"... that's Benny Goodman.

    Word Verification: "unding"
    (What WoWers say when they get level-drained)

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  64. I don't think anyone in the OSR could get away with running their website the way Edwards runs The Forge. People would just ignore them, as eg Rob Kuntz's site is largely ignored.

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  65. OT: I'm a real professor! Although we're called Lecturers here in the UK. I don't feel that y'all should have to defer to me, though.

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  66. To be fair, a couple points:

    a) heavy handed as it was sometimes, Ron's insistence on a formality of discourse at the Forge resulted much more measured exchange of ideas, and much less noise than is typical for an internet forum.

    b) a good portion of what used to be the Forge community has since moved on to other forums, with different cultures (Story-Games, Vincent Baker's website, etc)

    c) I never actually have seen anybody refer to Ron as "The Professor" before Zachary's post up above. It certainly was never a title he sought or was accorded in discussions at the Forge.

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  67. Sorry, again I don't have much time to read all the comments. I'll be back much later

    Wally:
    (I admit, I didn't know the level of vitriol that existed between the Forge kids and the OSR types. I rather wish I still didn't.)

    Same until I played with one or two people who may have been Forge types. Are these the guys who think PCs are never meant to die however stupid the player's decisions thereby draining all sense of danger and fun (eg. black humour!) from the game?

    Brunomac:
    "snarky, pretentious older dudes."

    Getting warmer...

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  68. T. Foster wrote: "That's because, at least in the case of the Forge/Indie movement, it's a lie. That movement isn't (and probably never was) really about DIY and forging your own path, it's all about following Ron and copying his methods and theories and making games he approves of."

    T. Foster, when people accuse the old school movement of having a fetish for early games, an obsession with nostalgia, and a complete inability to actually identify why the games they like are betters, how does that make you feel? Do you want to smack them for having wrong-headed opinions based on a shallow understanding combined with obvious falsehoods? Welcome to the other side of the coin. You've just spouted wrong-headed opinion based on a shallow understanding combined with obvious falsehoods.

    Yes, Edwards is a domineering personality who regularly veers into outright assholedom. But the indie movement, both on and off the Forge, is much larger than Ron, and as a whole does emphasize doing it yourself and forging your own path.

    If you, T. Foster, want people to take the old school movement more seriously, it would help if you would take over movements more seriously.

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  69. @Rafial: Indeed. I just used the term, certainly not as any sort of RPG community honorific. More just me playing around with names and titles. :)

    And yes, a lot of the Forge community has moved on. There have been some splits and some migrations in the past couple of years. Over what and why, someone more interested or knowledgable than I would have to say.

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  70. Are these the guys who think PCs are never meant to die however stupid the player's decisions thereby draining all sense of danger and fun (eg. black humour!) from the game?

    Nope, you must have them confused with somebody else. Most "Forge" types I know aren't satisfied with anything less than a Hamlet-level body count.

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  71. As a Forge-y guy and also a proud player of OD&D, I'd appreciate it if people confined their criticisms to Edwards himself, and not to various unnamed folks associated with him.

    Vincent Baker, Jason Morningstar, and Paul Czege have all contributed to "Fight On!" and are all pretty heavily influenced by the Forge's branch of Indie RPG design. They're not anyone's "enemy" because they know Ron Edwards or because their RPG designs were influenced by conversations with him.

    All the folks I know who are associated with Story Games and the other Forge-related sites are HUGE fans of early-edition D&D; they also like 4e; they also like other games.

    Just because one dude writes something stupid, it's not a threat. If Edwards said a stupid thing, laugh at him - but don't malign entire groups of people because they like the Forge or games inspired by that line of thought.

    I love playing OD&D; I love indie games like Sorcerer and Dogs in the Vineyard. I just wish the Gaming Internet wasn't so paranoid about status and labels.

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  72. Just because one dude writes something stupid, it's not a threat.

    Indeed. I don't quite fathom the level of paranoia some people have about "The Ed(wards) Menace," as if he or "his minions" are hiding behind every bookshelf and waiting to subvert ... well, whatever it is they're supposed to be subverting.

    I don't much care for much of what's come out of the Forge or Forge-descended forums, but that makes it no different than anywhere else on the Net (gaming or otherwise). On the other hand, I am fond of a number of "indie" games, including Edwards's own Sorcerer. Ironically, that admission will brand me as a fifth columnist in places where ideological purity is far greater than anything I've ever witnessed among the Forge-ites.

    Mind you, I'm one of those weirdos who thinks we can talk civilly and intelligently about our gaming preferences, so what do I know?

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  73. heavy handed as it was sometimes, Ron's insistence on a formality of discourse at the Forge resulted much more measured exchange of ideas, and much less noise than is typical for an internet forum.

    And I see nothing wrong with that. I know it's cool these days to tout a lack of moderation on message boards and forums as evidence of "intellectual freedom" or whatever, but I'm too old to stomach having to wade through trolls, ad hominem attacks, and profanity-laced demagoguery just to get that one little grain of insight. Give me formality of discourse any day of the week.

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  74. James, thanks for that.

    Incidentally, my OD&D gang are about to start a group blog in a couple weeks. One of the things I hope to talk about from time to time are nifty ideas from various indie games that can be ported to Gygaxian D&D to do various things. (Not that one ought to do this, but that one can, and that it would affect game play in certain ways.)

    Personally I think a lot of the passion spent on denouncing or defending the Forge would be better spent on play and design.

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  75. I think there are actually quite a few Professor/Lecturer gamers regularly posting on blogs + forums. :)

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  76. You have to admit, getting this guy to give an interview sure has given FO! some buzz. Maybe next time around Calithena should interview Lorainne Williams, or Jack Chick. Now THOSE would be fun reads!

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  77. Also, where did this "Professor" thing come from? I've interacted with Edwards for about 5 years now on the Forge. The only time his job title came up, is when he was specifically discussing stuff related to his job.

    The term's use in the present discussion seems to start with Zachary the First's post at 12:47, which I think is nicely facetious. But it seems like people are thinking that its Edwards who is throwing his professional weight around.
    It's not something I've ever seen him self-apply in the fashion it's being used here

    I mean, did he say this in the article or something? 'Cause if we're just making fun of him on this ground because, sure, maybe it's made up but we don't like him so it's okay, that seems to cheapen us as a community. I'm told there's enough to disagree with in the article without resorting to ad hominems.

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  78. Others have often referenced his Academic credentials when evangelizing Forge theory. It's been ages... But he definitely mentions being a Prof as part of his background story for knowing why some games cause real and literal brain-damage to people who play them.

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  79. Jack Chick can contribute to FO! any time he wants. Pages 44-5 can go to Dark Dungeons II whenever he wants.

    Lorraine Williams, on the other hand...

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  80. Yes: because to a professor of neurology, "brain damage" basically means anything that mucks up your ability to process certain kinds of information. It's like a chemistry professor saying life is just chemistry.

    I'm going to do something that I've never seen done on the "brain damage" thing - which is, post a link to the actual discussion.

    I don't want to defend the statement because I think, in classic Ron fashion, it ludicrously overstates the case. I find the whole thing regrettable. But if you're going to lynch a guy for saying something, you ought to know what he actually said.

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  81. Except that he's not a Professor of Neurology - he has a PhD in Zoology. I think you already knew that though...

    He has no Academic credentials backing up his theories on games causing mental trauma, game design, play styles, etc.

    Which doesn't mean he can't share his ideas about games - just that his fans shouldn't falsely attribute things to him that aren't true. Like being a Neurologist.

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  82. @Badmike Ron Popeil I think? Inventor of the Pocket Flamewar.

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  83. @BadMike: Here's the original link: "This has nothing to do with geekery. When I say "brain damage," I mean it literally. Their minds have been *harmed.*"

    I guess it's like when you read the wrong book in Call of Cthulhu and lose d6 Sanity points. :)

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  84. I expect the vitriol some folks have for Ron Edwards might stem from him saying D&D players were mentally retarded and then comparing us to child abuse survivors.

    I'm not certain here, but it is a possibility.


    Holy sweet mother of balls, I just read those essays.

    If the man wasn't a poorly-socialized prick addicted to his own brand he'd have a lot of smart things to say about roleplaying games, particularly the history of D&D. Alas.

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  85. Rafial FTW!

    @Stuart:

    My earlier post seems to have gotten eaten.

    Point taken: I didn't in fact know what his degree was in. He's mentioned work on rat's brains a couple of times in different contexts and I assumed.

    Regardless, the use of the term "brain damage" in that discussion is a sort of reductionism I've seen other academics engage in from time to time. In this context - discussing whether some early White Wolf game designs ended up training a particular group of players to think about stories in a weird way - the use of the term is pretty tangential.

    Was it dumb and condescending? Yeah, definitely. But the discussion itself was about teaching texts and learned behaviors.

    I, at least, haven't ever seen him use his academic credentials to push various approaches to design in the way you're attributing to him. Maybe I missed something, it's possible.

    He's an outspoken jerk sometimes, but he's designed some way fun games, and I thought there was sort of a mob mentality - "Who is this guy? Who cares, he's an enemy!!!" thing going on.

    And... with that, I think I've defended Edwards all I care to.

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  86. Wow! 88 comments on the editorial of some guy I've never heard of.

    What is the record for comments on a Grognardia post anyway, James?

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  87. I'm with Palmer. (And I'll just add this fluff comment on the off chance this takes us into comment-length history). :)

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  88. @Nostack

    Thanks for the link to the Ron Edwards interview, I think that he makes a reasonable case although the term "brain damage" for what he is referring to is an unfortunate choice of words. But from what others on here are saying it sounds like he does like to deliberately stir up the old hornets nest so I suppose he knew what he was doing.

    He actually has some good words there for a "grab bag" style of play that he says he saw in the late seventies, early 80's that seems to match pretty closely with a lot of the views I hear espoused on this and other "old school renaissance" blogs. Namely that people grabbed bits and pieces from different rulesets and created a game that matched what they wanted to play. It seems like a lot of the appeal of older iterations of D&D is that you can graft stuff onto it without upsetting its "balance" because "balance" wasn't really a primary concern of the game to begin with. Much easier than tinkering with the 4e ruleset, say.

    I can't count the number of people who say that they really played B/X D&D with bits of AD&D grafted onto it, or to take it a step further, you could look at all the supplements to OD&D as the same kind of effort to provide a bunch of options to make the game your own that people picked and chose from.

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  89. Whoo Hooo! 91 comments. I'm gonna tell a stupid joke just to push us closer to 100.

    A ham and cheese sandwich walks into a bar.
    It jumps up on a stool and says, "Give me a beer!"
    The bartender looks over at the sandwich and says, "We don't serve food here."

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  90. RONS EDWARD TOUCH ME WITH INA-PROPIATE DESIRES. HE WISPERED IN MY EAR THAT HE WOULD LIKE TOO TOUCH MY BOOBS AND ALSO HE ASK ME TO GROWEL LIKE A MINIATAUR. I DONOT LIKE HIM.

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  91. If this fellow Ron talks about what gaming was like in California in the 70s, there may be a sale from me right there. I have a feeling something was waning from the game when I started playing it in 1980. It was being Disneyfied. I was assisted by a fellow on Dragonsfoot and Timeshadows into rediscovering a bestiary called All The World's Monsters, vol. 2. You could really see its editors in shock that the game was so large. I like Arudin and so I bought the nine books from Emperor's Choice. There's a picture of a topless woman with an axe called Shardra The Castrator. I think it's great. D&D/Arduin with sex, violence, as a slightly subversive pastime. Would I want to talk about sex while playing? No. Did I think it was cool when I had a player who tortured a female assassin in a D&D campaign ages ago? No. But I'm almost more disgusted by Roger E. Moore, famous editor of Dragon, slamming Arduin for having a Courtesan class. That's pathetic. (Think of the womenfolk! Think of your mothers, your sisters... oh, the humanity!) In the world I play in, Greyhawk, Arduin, whatever, there are lots of things I don't want to see directly, but I want to know that they are out there. I don't want to know that my rpg world has been censored. It's a fact that as the game got bigger, it started to water itself down. (Where are the demons? They were just here...) So, I'm intrigued by what might have happened in the Bay area back in the day. I am of the opinion that it was more than just Monty Python jokes. Although, ATWM, vol. 2, does have a monster called the Vorpal Bunny created by Paul Jaquays. To me Shardra The Castrator IS old school.

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  92. I've never been to the Forge and to date I haven't read anything by Ron Edwards (nor could I have identified him as its head).

    However, back when I used to discuss things at ENWorld, people occasionally popped up quoting Forge-stuff; it was always (1) enormously long, (2) nonsensical and rambling, and (3) laden with jargon that apparently defied any actual definition. It always derailed the conversation, appeared cult-like, and was instantly dislikable.

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  93. > Timeshadows remembers rolling-up female characters with back-breakingly-large breasts in the Arduin books -- Oh, the Womanity! < ;)

    ATWM is just craziness.
    --Every OSer ought to own Vol. 2, if only for Ken St. Andre's conversion to T&T guidelines. :D

    Speaking of Ken and sex, I do remember the article: "Sex and Death in T&T" ;)

    ---
    Word Verification-
    * Domshedg: [censored]

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  94. For what it's worth, I think he made some good points about supposedly "old-school" gamers buying into the 80s and on Disneyfication neutering of fantasy, whether they realize it or not.

    The real problem is not so much that Carcosa's author released a sanitized version of his work, but *the very outcry that caused him to do so itself.*

    The whole affair says some very damning things about this little section of the hobby, like it or not.

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  95. Rafial
    Nope, you must have them confused with somebody else. Most "Forge" types I know aren't satisfied with anything less than a Hamlet-level body count.

    Cool, I could live with that - maybe not in every session. But if a group of level 1 PCs stumble into a dragon's lair and decide to attack, well... Alas, poor Yorick! : )

    Thanks, Rafial.

    jcosmon
    "the hallucinatory, gory, gleeful, sexy realm of fantasy"

    I like that too but doesn't creating such an RPG effect depend more on the skill of the DM and the composition of the group as opposed to some mechanic or manifesto?

    I tried reading the Forge texts but couldn't make head or tail of them to be honest.


    Brunomac
    Huh. At the time I guess I just assumed that all gamers across America made constant Monty Python jokes and references while at the game table. And I assumed all the sexual innuendo that went down in the games was just because the guys never got laid.

    Alas, it's a global phenomenon...

    brasspen
    No. Did I think it was cool when I had a player who tortured a female assassin in a D&D campaign ages ago? No. But I'm almost more disgusted by Roger E. Moore, famous editor of Dragon, slamming Arduin for having a Courtesan class. That's pathetic.

    I agree.

    I was just about to order the mag for the Mutant Future sandbox BTW but then saw the postage. Ouch! It's gonna have to wait a couple of weeks... Don't they have printers in Melbourne to ship to Australian addresses?

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  96. @brasspen -

    I don't want to know that my rpg world has been censored.

    Surely you can see the problems with this sentiment. Starting with the fact that 'I don't want to know that ____' is nowhere near as noble a sentiment as you might think...

    Any work of craft involves selectivity by the craftsman. That's different from 'censorship,' of course. The choice to excise puerile sexuality and pornographic violence from D&D was a matter of reaching out to younger players, but let's be frank: adults lured in by that sort of thing were never that far beyond adolescence anyway. Remember that AD&D's sexuality is utterly juvenile; the 'wandering harlot' table is an exercise in funny vocabulary, not a sex-simulator. The 'watering-down' didn't happen in the 80's, man.

    Sexuality is only partly physical; grownup representations of sexuality in RPGs were (if I've read the hobby's history correctly) simply nonexistent until the 90s or so. If you think removing T&A from a barbarians-and-wizards game is 'watering down,' you're missing out on a whole universe of complexity. It's weird, at this point in the hobby's history, to complain about the maturity level of RPGs going from 5% to 4% in the 1980s...

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  97. @Chris T
    I was just about to order the mag...but then saw the postage. Ouch!...Don't they have printers in Melbourne to ship to Australian addresses?

    I got burnt buying a print issue of #3 - yep it was printed in Melbourne, but Lulu still charged international postage in US dollars. It was the last Lulu print item I ever bought.

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  98. Jack Chick can contribute to FO! any time he wants. Pages 44-5 can go to Dark Dungeons II whenever he wants.

    Lorraine Williams, on the other hand...


    What about Brian Blume?

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  99. What is the record for comments on a Grognardia post anyway, James?

    I'm honestly not sure -- over 100 for certain. Whether this particular post will generate the most remains to be seen, but I'd bet it's likely.

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  100. To me Shardra The Castrator IS old school.

    Oh, she is and you'll find plenty of folks on this side of the fence who celebrate that type of fantasy and fantasy gaming. Dave Hargrave's memory is just as revered in the old school renaissance as that of Gygax, if not as loudly.

    What really bugged me about Edwards's piece, though, was not to that it "challenged" the old school renaissance to be as hardcore as he believes himself to be -- such "old schooler than thou" chest thumping is par for the course in our little echo chamber -- but that his conception of fantasy is so narrow, far narrower than most of us here. For all the attention given to pulp fantasy, D&D isn't just that. It's also Lewis Carroll and L. Frank Baum and Lloyd Alexander and C.S. Lewis, all of whom left their mark on the game. Certainly if these authors were all that D&D was, I'd probably not be very interested in it (then or now), but I think it's a mistake to banish such fantasies to the realm of the "Disneyfied" and implicitly argue they have no place in the old school renaissance, a movement made almost entirely of guys and gals following their hearts' desires.

    And I think, ultimately, that's where the disconnect lies. The OSR, for all the philosophizing and soul-searching it engages in -- and it does -- isn't really an ideology, despite being called a "movement" by many (myself included). It's much too diffuse and disjointed, primarily by the belief that old schools are still good games and in many cases better games for the kinds of play we enjoy. So, criticizing the whole OSR for not being, well, any single thing is silly, because odds are good that, if you look hard enough, someone somewhere is doing exactly what you would prefer they do -- just as someone somewhere is doing exactly what you wouldn't prefer. Kinda like life.

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  101. The whole affair says some very damning things about this little section of the hobby, like it or not.

    Like what?

    Lots of people keep making hay about l'affaire Carcosa, as if it reveals the "secret face" of the old school movement, but what's interesting is that, except for a few hotheads on Dragonsfoot and elsewhere, no one called for Carcosa to be removed from publication and the unexpurgated version is still available for sale. Geoffrey himself noted in another forum that 15% of his sales were for the expurgated version and he gladly accommodated gamers who were uncomfortable with some of the original contents (amounting to maybe a page of text in total, if that).

    So, I'm curious: what's damning about this? Geoffrey was able to write and sell the book he wanted and it met with the approval of 85% of his customers, as written. There was no censorship, no book burnings, no end to Carcosa's publication. There was lots of discussion about the book, its contents, and the merits thereof, some of it intemperate but much of it thoughtful. I don't see any problem with that. I certainly don't see it as damning in any way.

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  102. David,

    Lulu's shipping costs to locales outside the US are abominable and it's made it so that I can't buy physical copies of stuff like Fight On!, even though I'd very much like to do so.

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  103. Perhaps someone in the US could order the print copies and then ship them to you. I don't know how the total shipping cost would compare with the Lulu shipping charges to Canada doing it that way, but it might bring it within reach.

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  104. Howarth,

    Periodically, some of us in the city pool our resources and make a big Lulu purchase and split the shipping costs, which aren't prohibitive when you buy a large enough order. It's the cost for shipping one book that's ridiculous.

    I'm sure we'll do that again sometime in the near future.

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  105. @David Macauley

    I might still get one just to have anyway. I hate reading mags on my monitor. I stare at one all day at work!

    @James Maliszewski
    Lots of people keep making hay about l'affaire Carcosa, as if it reveals the "secret face" of the old school movement

    I agree: there is no secret face to Old School games because they are so modular that AFAIK they can accomodate the tastes of whatever group is playing. If you want grand guignol, slash away! if you want fairy tales then try this cake... etc etc

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  106. @Will Mistretta

    The real problem is not so much that Carcosa's author released a sanitized version of his work, but *the very outcry that caused him to do so itself.

    I read a post from the author on one of James Raggi's blog posts about the outcry that explicitly says that he did NOT release the expurgated version of Carcosa as a response to the general hue and cry. He said it was several readers who asked him nicely to release a version of the product that they could share in their games with their children that prompted him to do so, and since he did not ever stop distributing the original text you could hardly hold this up as an example of censorship, voluntary or otherwise.

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  107. If I could chime in on Carcosa for a minute, I believe I was one of those who mentioned they’d rather have a version to use with a gaming group that included several younger gamers. I purchased that version, and think Geoffrey’s work is great, and I’m happy to have a version I can freely use in that type of group without reservation.

    The younger kids and mixed family elements of that group are just as valid a part of classical gaming and its roots than the harder, edgier bits.

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  108. Ouch. If Brian Blume ever sends us an MS we'll have to make that decision, I guess. Ouch.

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  109. Lulu has improved several aspects of their service recently, and I (perhaps as a bit of wish fulfillment, but nonetheless) still hold out hope that international shipping will get fixed up soon as well.

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  110. "except for a few hotheads on Dragonsfoot and elsewhere, no one called for Carcosa to be removed from publication"

    So nobody got angry and decried it except for the ones that did? :)

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  111. There's a difference between saying you think something sucks and saying that it needs to be removed from publication.

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  112. Not to help turn this into a Carcosa discussion, but for months I knew about it but never looked further. I just spent a few minutes looking at James M.'s and the Flaming Princess reviews. Just from what I read there, I would not call for the destruction of the material. But I would call the author a sick fuck. I mean, ok, you need to rape sometimes to cast some goofy-ass spell. But it has to be an 11-year old girl, and she has to be raped 11 times by a dude who took an herbal boner-stiffener so he can be up to the task? Great. Glad we drink booze instead of eat Doritos at my games.

    That is also sexist. I mean, what the hell is a female sorcerer supposed to do...get raped 11 times by an 11 year old boy? Sheesh.

    Anyway, sorry. I missed that whole discussion months ago. Just wanted to chime in.

    OH, and reading some of Edwards writing since James posted this, I have to say that he is a smart guy. But also a fucking douche.

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  113. Ouch. If Brian Blume ever sends us an MS we'll have to make that decision, I guess. Ouch.

    It's probably not an issue, since any new Brian Blume stuff will be published here first, if only to boost my cred as the most evil man in gaming.

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  114. So nobody got angry and decried it except for the ones that did? :)

    I never said no one got angry and decried it; I said very few people called for its removal from publication.

    Expressing intellectual and/or moral reservations about a creative work is not the same thing as calling for its ban. Just a few weeks ago everyone was up in arms that the OSR was a kumbaya echo chamber and yet, if we actually argue and disagree and criticize, it's somehow illegitimate? I'm confused.

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  115. I just spent a few minutes looking at James M.'s and the Flaming Princess reviews. Just from what I read there, I would not call for the destruction of the material. But I would call the author a sick fuck. I mean, ok, you need to rape sometimes to cast some goofy-ass spell.

    Flaming Princess, LOL.

    I just purchased Carcosa a couple weeks back, and I wouldn't censor it either (were I to somehow acquire that power) but agree he's a sicko.

    My real problem with the product, though, was its butchery of the inspirational source material. I can't recall a single instance of human sacrifice, sorcerous or otherwise, in a Lovecraft story. Oh, and why are the Great Race described as the cone-shaped species they became when they transferred their minds to Earth millions of years ago..hmm. A missed opportunity to show us what they were like beforehand.

    Anyway, point being, we can have problems with OS and other products for different reasons, not just that they aren't "hardcore" enough (or too much so).

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  116. The funny part about all of this is that "Bad press is better than no press at all...and sometimes better."

    From a guy that I used to work with who was constantly struggling to promote his businesses way back in the days before the intrawebs.

    Just take a look at the number of comments on this post and you'll see what I mean. ;-)

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  117. >Flaming Princess, LOL<

    Er, uh, in referring to the blog, not the man. As far as I can tell he is a complete stud (despite never being in a fist fight).

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  118. >Flaming Princess, LOL<

    Er, uh, in referring to the blog, not the man. As far as I can tell he is a complete stud (despite never being in a fist fight).


    Sorry, I'm sure everyone understood. I believe it is "Flame Princess", rather than "Flaming Princess". What you said was just too close to "Flaming Queen" not to chuckle.

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  119. >Flaming Princess, LOL<

    Er, uh, in referring to the blog, not the man. As far as I can tell he is a complete stud (despite never being in a fist fight).


    Sorry, I'm sure everyone understood. I believe it is "Flame Princess", rather than "Flaming Princess". What you said was just too close to "Flaming Queen" not to chuckle.

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  120. Oh, and why are the Great Race described as the cone-shaped species they became when they transferred their minds to Earth millions of years ago..hmm. A missed opportunity to show us what they were like beforehand.

    You'll have to blame Kuntz, Ward & Otus for that one. The Cthulhu section of the DDG is where the author of Carcosa gets his most direct inspiration.

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  121. I suppose that explains it, though I assume he has also read The Shadow out of Time. To find out what their "original" form was, we'd have to travel to Yith rather than Carcosa in any case. I guess I would've preferred to see a more canonical approach to the Lovecraftian stuff. I could rattle off a list of about fifteen other "misinterpretations" that bugged me.

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  122. I have to admit that the whole Carcoas concept sounded great to me months ago (as a fan of both Lovecraft and all the King in Yellow stuff), but to be serious and honest, I think the material sounds a lot like what 13 year-old metalhead/goth kids would come up with during a particulary stoned session. I know all the rape and gore stuff is supposed to be a small part of it, but the descripition of the "11 rapes of a little girl then choke her out with her own hair" sound a lot like what the creepier kids would come up with when I first got into the game. I don't know if that is so much hardcore or original as it is the horney fantasies of a lonely, twisted brain. Those were the types of kids who grew up into Jeffrey Dahmer types. Just sayin'. My games tend to have a certain amount of darkness and sexualization, but c'mon. That folks with kids requested a "cleaner" version of that to play with their kids has me scratching my spikey head. Weird.

    Shit, I know this isn't a Carcosa post, but I really missed the boat when that product came out. I'll save more for if this ever comes around again. I'd do my own post on it, but that would require me having to actually buy the thing. Not that I am concearned with content. I'm just cheap.

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  123. @Brunomac

    I don't mean to perpetuate the threadjack either, really, but I have to back up and say that despite my negative comments about Carcosa, as a whole it's actually a decent offering. There're lots of parts that I'd change if I ever planned to use it in play, but the basic premise is pretty neat and fairly well executed.

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  124. Just a quick word: let's try and keep the discussion of Carcosa on topic. Ron Edwards mentioned it in his article and it's fine to discuss it within that context. I don't want this to turn into a bash Geoffrey McKinney thread. Geoffrey is one of the most civil and level-headed guys in the old school movement and he deserves better than to be amateur psycho-analyzed and denounced by people who don't know him.

    While we're at it, the same needs to be said of Ron Edwards. Like what the man says or not, but don't resort to ridiculous ad hominem attacks and conspiracy theories about the guy. He doesn't deserve to be treated that way either.

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  125. But I heard that Ron Edwards was in league with the reptilian aliens who plot to destroy us all from their secret base beneath mt Shasta!

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  126. But I heard that Ron Edwards was in league with the reptilian aliens who plot to destroy us all from their secret base beneath mt Shasta!

    You heard wrong. First, the base is beneath the Devil's Tower. Second, it's me who's in league with the Reptoids.

    Or haven't you been keeping up with the latest conspiracy theories?

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  127. Just a quick word: let's try and keep the discussion of Carcosa on topic.

    I'm not entirely sure where you're trying to draw the line...

    I agree that the questionable parts "sounds a lot like what 13 year-old metalhead/goth kids would come up with ", and that sort of thing isn't as mature or of as much worth as some folk would suggest.

    Not making game fiction and settings juvenille and "shocking" doesn't make something 'Disneyfied'.

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  128. "Just a few weeks ago everyone was up in arms that the OSR was a kumbaya echo chamber and yet, if we actually argue and disagree and criticize, it's somehow illegitimate? I'm confused."

    Basically, the so-called OSR is a small club. We need to support each other. If you want to say that a book features a poor set of rules, or poor art, or unclear writing, that's great. These are basic criticisms. Condemning someone in the hobby's work just because they didn't keep it PG-rated since they wanted vile, sociopathic sorcerers to *really be that*? That's bull, straight up. Directly calling the author a "sick fuck", as above, even moreso.

    Some in the OSR are going to publish mature works and push the boundries of what's commonly seen in modern FRP products. It has happened and it's going to happen. If you don't want to buy it, fine. If you can't at least support them in public forums and show some basic comradery, the movement is much better off without your prudish judgemental streak.

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  129. I mean, last time I checked RPG sourcebooks still dealt entirely in pretend people, after all.

    If you're really passionate about lobbying for better treatment of fictional human sacrifice victims, you might just need a reality check (or additiona hobbies, or just a *life*).

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  130. Well James, sure you're right about name calling. I don't know either of these gents, and should not cast too hard a stone. I have my own twisted thoughts. Shit, I consider myself a decent guy, but Clockwork Orange has been one of my favorite books/novels since I was a teen - and that uses gang rape as a comic punchline.

    Whatever Edwards thoughts on D&D players (and although I am old school, playing AD&D 1st ed. I consider my scenarios fairly progressive and occasionally "hardcore"), some of my reading of his comments today touched home as far as my own experiences back in the day. And I say some fairly outrageous crap from time to time.

    And a lot of Carcosa sounds cool. Not necessarily brilliant or all that "groundbreaking" though. Again, some of it sounds like kids bastardizing a bunch of sources to create a mish mash world pretty much for the sake of being different. For sure isn't any real kind of homage to the sources, as many of the thread replies have smartly pointed out today.

    Well, long and short of it is I think I am not honor bound to check out the Carcosa material now that I have spouted off. No matter what I think, the long and short of it is McKinney just got himself another sale. Least I can do for a fellow Scotsman.

    Clever bugger.

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  131. passionate about lobbying for better treatment of fictional human sacrifice victims<

    Well, there is plenty of inhumanity in the real world. I remember in the late 90's a group of teenage boys took a local popular girl out into the woods and even though they wanted to sacrifice a virgin, they all raped her before killing her anyway. Maybe if those guys only had a game that would let them pretend to do it. Hmmm...maybe lives are being saved here. Shit, rape her 12 times!

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  132. >of it is I think I am not honor bound to check out the Carcos<

    Meant to say "now honor bound"

    We are looking at close to 150 comments here. Gonna break 200 over the weekend, I know it!

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  133. Condemning someone in the hobby's work just because they didn't keep it PG-rated since they wanted vile, sociopathic sorcerers to *really be that*? That's bull, straight up.

    No, this is bull, straight up.

    It's a matter of degree. It would be unreasonable to condemn someone for publishing an PG-13 rated work (for example) but reasonable to criticize a work that would be illegal under various international obscenity laws. I hope we can all agree on this as a starting point. :)

    In between those extremes you have a lot of grey area. People are pretty quick to condemn games like F.A.T.A.L. and RaHoWa (no argument from me) but those games aren't considered illegal obscenity to my knowledge.

    I genuinely don't think Carcosa would be either, although some text-based BDSM fantasy story sites in the US have shut down due to risks of being prosecuted under US obscenity law. Without having read Carcosa I have no idea at all how it's presented (that makes a very big difference), but mixing kids + violence + sex in a publication can be hitting a lot of red flags.

    So it might be fair to say "Carcosa really isn't that bad, it's about 2 sentences of hand-wavey suggestion of "very bad stuff" and no worse than publication X which most people find generally acceptable". But saying that at no point should a work of fiction from "our community" be criticized by any of it's members? That's total crap. Sooner or later someone will inevitably step over whatever line you want to draw.

    That we're having this discussion is a good thing, not a bad thing. :)

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  134. "But saying that at no point should a work of fiction from 'our community' be criticized by any of it's members?"

    With tones of unearned (and, indeed, unearnable in the context of pure fantasy) moral superiority and judgements about character? Absolutely not.

    "Without having read Carcosa"

    Do me a favor and read the material if you want to discuss it with me. Hearsay is not a fruitful
    basis for any kind of discussion. I have a hard time taking arguments that begin "I'm completely, 100% ignorant on this topic but..." seriously.

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  135. Do me a favor and read the material if you want to discuss it with me. Hearsay is not a fruitful basis for any kind of discussion.

    Ironically, it seems the majority of the most strident critics of McKinney's Carcosa are guilty of this. And in discussions elsewhere, it seems to be repeated by some of the critics of the Ron Edwards article too.

    Debate is great, but only if you actually know what you're talking about, otherwise it's hard to take your opinions seriously.

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  136. Your personal belief may be that people should never make those sorts of judgements about "just fiction" and "imaginary characters" - but that's just your opinion, and it's not shared by the legal system.

    You don't need to spend $12 to read this: Non image-based obscenity cases in the USA.

    One of the women publishing "just stories" was facing 3 years in prison, but managed to plea bargain her way into some sort of house arrest.

    Even if you don't run into legal problems you should check the fine print of the website host you use. Most are more restrictive than what you're legally able to do if you host things on your own server.

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  137. @David: There were plenty of reviews, and plenty of quotes. Here's the one from Dragonsfoot: http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=38&t=32395

    I specifically wanted to avoid weighing in on whether Carcosa crossed the line into obscenity or not. I don't know. I hope Geoffrey got a professional opinion before he published it.

    There's enough material available for me to say that it's not for me personally.

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  138. I hope Geoffrey got a professional opinion before he published it.

    See there you go again Stuart, the inference being that Geoffrey has probably done something illegal, despite you just having said you "wanted to avoid weighing in on whether Carcosa crossed the line into obscenity or not" - well I think you just did. The same can be said for the tactic of linking it to examples of people convicted of obscenity crimes. Very clever, very sneaky.

    The point of sale for Carcosa clearly states that "The 1st Edition is for mature audiences only". As far as I know, no customer has ever reported Geoffrey to the authorities (not that anyone having read the work in its entirety would likely be inclined to think they should need to).

    This debate was done to death on the forum you linked above, a long time ago. Bringing it up again in relation to the Ron Edwards post here comes across like someone who is disappointed at having missed out on the chance to make a big noise back when the Carcosa debate was actually current news. I'd rather hear what people think about Ron Edwards in Fight On!

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  139. "My question is whether all this, Fight On! and otherwise, is
    rediscovering and re-brewing the real bug juice, or tamely
    sipping the second-stage, caffeine-free, sugar-free version."

    That's it, people. That's all the demonized Mr. Edwards is saying.

    His essay moves in three parts. The first is easiest to read, and is a memoir of his days playing in the 70s. Then he starts to make his argument. The writing style changes and sometimes his sentences are so dense your eyes glaze over. Then the last part is him saying he has a new product. I don't know how you can criticize his taking a single paragraph to do that.

    The essay is about paradise lost, and whether OSR can rediscover the secret. He figures it may not be able to do so, because the community has been flayed by the outside world for so long that it censors itself. He sites the Carcosa flap as proof of that.

    For myself, I can't see anything to disagree with here. Except with how he wrote a couple of those turgid sentences.

    Having read about Lee Gold, the Aggothya and seen the other stuff in issue #6, I think it's the most valuable item in the issue. I'd like to know more about Bay area gaming in the 70s such as Grimcon, the origin of the Chaosium, and such.

    And, thank you, America for sending the Blue Angels to Toronto for the Canadian National Exhibition for the first time since 1983. I woke up this morning thinking my apartment was being strafed. You know I ran to the balcony. :)

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  140. And, thank you, America for sending the Blue Angels to Toronto for the Canadian National Exhibition for the first time since 1983. I woke up this morning thinking my apartment was being strafed. You know I ran to the balcony. :)

    You're welcome. At least they're not buzzing my house here near Dover, for once. Though the big cargo planes are the real issue, not to mention the crop dusters. Word to the wise, never buy the argument that you will "get used" to living within 1 miles of an airforce base in the middle of some farmland :).

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  141. "See there you go again Stuart, the inference being that Geoffrey has probably done something illegal, despite you just having said you "wanted to avoid weighing in on whether Carcosa crossed the line into obscenity or not" - well I think you just did."

    That's funny David, I said "I genuinely don't think Carcosa would [be illegal obscenity]". You must have skipped that part.

    I don't want to give anyone the impression that I know exactly where the line is. I don't. I know those themes are red flags in publishing. I don't know how much is too much. I don't know what things are like in Colorado. I have no idea how it being a game factors into things. If you want to step up to that line and push against those "Victorian societal values" then you need to do more research on what you can and can't say without breaking the law. Don't take legal advice from guys posting in the comments on someone's blog. :)

    I did weigh in on Carcosa when it was first published. This discussion is about whether or not "our community" should say anything when someone is near the line, or whether we should simply just clap politely.

    The real discussion is about how we should react when someone publishes Supplement VI: Shock & Awe that goes 3 steps past where Carcosa was.

    Clap politely? Ignore it? Condemn it? Encourage them to go further?

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  142. I may derail this thread totally and for that I apologize in advance to Blog Master, James M.

    I just came back from the pub (I've had a couple + will most probably regret this in the morning) and I spoke to one of my friends, who used to game in the 90s when I was most definitely not interested in RPGs or comics (I was heavily into SF/Fantasy literature though) about my recent gaming experiences: I gotta say I have never felt more alienated from the wider "gaming community" than ever...

    I may probably develop this further in a post on a forum or create a blog (or not).

    Meanwhile, I'll say this: I think this sense of player entitlement to experience points and a "balanced" game, meaning that PCs will only ever encounter monsters or NPCs that they will be able to kill (for XP) is far more perverse and revelatory of murderous intent - or rather, player insecurity - than anything Ron Edwards or Geoff McKinley could intend.

    I couldn't imagine anything more boring or one dimensional than DMing a session where I had to cater to players' wayward subliminal predelictions by providing statistics that they could easily overcome by rolling dice.

    I'm guessing that suggesting a game of Paranoia to such players would be beyond the pale...

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  143. @Chris T said:

    "I couldn't imagine anything more boring or one dimensional than DMing a session where I had to cater to players' wayward subliminal predelictions by providing statistics that they could easily overcome by rolling dice."

    I think that's a beautiful, in-a-nutshell statement. I'm saying censorship became a problem. You're saying pandering is a problem. And beautifully put. I tried playing D&D with some people my own age two days after EGG died. They thought I was INSANE. I never played with them again. I was WAY to random for them. Each to his own. But it was clear to me that they played differently. They had different expectations. When I played at age 12, we were completely immoral. The whole point of the game was to have something we weren't supposed to have. At the time, VCRs just came out and Rupert Chriton came to grade seven saying he'd seen a movie called I Spit On Your Grave.

    The people I was playing with in 2008, not 1982, are what I call accountants. They want to tally up the booty. The monster is an incidental. As I said on the ArduinGuild board, if you're character isn't dying on a regular basis, you're not trying hard enough. I'd rather have a fabulous death, than a keep on the borderlands.

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  144. >Do me a favor and read the material if you want to discuss it with me<

    So if I only see 2 minutes of a bukakke or horse fucking video I can't discuss it as being disgusting - I gotta watch the whole thing?

    In the case of Carcosa, just reading a blurb about raping a little girl for 11 hours and then choking her out with her own hair speaks volumes. I don't know how reading about rainbow colored people, Cthulhoid monsters, and other aspects of the game is suppoed to make me feel anything but grossed-out, and creeped out about somebody who dreams that up for a game. I don't know the man, so I should not get personal. But if I tell somebody that I have rape and murder fantasies (but no real person is getting killed or hurt), should they not have the right to slide away down the bench a bit, and shake their head even though they don't know me in general?

    C'mon guys.

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  145. @Chris T @brasspen, et. al.

    A lot of OSR folk want a play experience that's high risk, features creative problems solving, and is imaginative without the constraints of a detailed rule set.

    Other folk want play that features competitive resource optimization within a well defined rule set.

    Then there are people who are not so much about risk and reward, but want their play to meaningfully address some emotionally resonant theme or premise. Or maybe they just want to really feel like they are another person, in another place in time.

    These are all valid ways to have fun. Thing is, you can't necessarily do all of them at the same time. My biggest take away from the investigations into roleplaying theory conducted by Ron Edwards and others is very simple:

    a) understand clearly what kind of play experience *I* want from a game when I sit down at the table.
    b) understand what the other people you are trying to play with want from their play experience
    c) figure out if a & b are compatible. If yes, great. Fight On! If not, look for folks that DO share your play priorities.

    All this can be done in very plain language, without fancy jargon. If I want to go see the latest Clive Barker movie, I'm not going to ask my friend who only likes RomComs. I'm going to look for other horror fans. Similarly if I want to play some OD&D, I'm going to look to my friends who also enjoy that style of play. And maybe a different group of friends if I want to play D&D4e, or Don't Rest Your Head, or REIGN, or Mouse Guard.

    Nobody's play, generally speaking is "perverse" or wrong or bad, if they are genuinely having fun doing it. It's just different. And believe it or not, whatever your gaming kink is, there are people out there that share it. And in this age of the internet, they are easier to find than ever. We don't have to stand around and condemn each other when there is so much good playing to be done!

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  146. Rafial: I think there is a hell of a lot of overthinking things there. I can't say for sure that my games are open enough for all tastes to enjoy, but in around 30 years of gaming I have discovered that all kinds of people come to my game table, with all kinds of different motivations and desires of what exactly they are looking for in the experience. I get all kinds, but I also have my preferences. The power gamers and mini-maxers annoy me, but they have as much a place in my game as the low maintenance role-player does. Maybe I am more open-minded than I thought (despite being creeped out by little girl rape/murder role-playing ;)).

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  147. @Brunomac

    That's awesome that you've been able to accomodate a broad variety of people at your table. I'm betting its because you've put conscious effort into recognizing what each person wants out of the game, and making some effort to provide that. That's cool!

    And that's really all I'm suggesting. Conscious awareness of different play preferences, and the ability to say "okay, I'm willing to play along" or "no, I'd rather not do that, thanks", as a opposed to "Your badwrongfun is ruining my hobby!"

    Overthinking? *Shrug* All I know is that I now have a really simple barometer that lets me know with a high degree of confidence that when I sit down to play or run a roleplaying game with a group of people that I am going to have an enjoyable time. If that's so wrong, I don't want to be right ;)

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  148. "I specifically wanted to avoid weighing in on whether Carcosa crossed the line into obscenity or not. I don't know. I hope Geoffrey got a professional opinion before he published it."

    This is ridiculous FUD and I'm personally offended by it.

    Last week I read Richard Tierney's story "The Seed of the Star-God" wherein a sorcerer must rape his own daughter in order to conjure Shub-Niggurath (from "The Shub-Niggurath Cycle", Chaosium 1994, edited by Robert Price). He actually appears naked with erection in the story to do the deed. I suppose you'll say the same about that and all similar fiction traditions? Will Tierney also be called a "sick fuck"?

    This kind of foolishness has me experiencing the tragedy that befell the fantasy gaming industry in the early 80's all over again.

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  149. Last week I read Richard Tierney's story "The Seed of the Star-God" wherein a sorcerer must rape his own daughter in order to conjure Shub-Niggurath (from "The Shub-Niggurath Cycle", Chaosium 1994, edited by Robert Price). He actually appears naked with erection in the story to do the deed. I suppose you'll say the same about that and all similar fiction traditions? Will Tierney also be called a "sick fuck"?

    No, but it definitely verges on poor taste, and is likely a self-consciously crass attempt to titillate the reader. I find it revealing that the "originals" hardly ever felt the need to go to such lengths to get the readers' attention, but the pasticheurs (both in fiction and gaming) have frequently done so. I think that sort of spectacle-over-substance approach is bad art.

    I can understand (and somewhat agree with) Brunomac's reaction to some of the details of the rituals in Carcosa. Fantasy (and fantasies) are on some level intensely personal, and to be utterly disgusted by someone else's idea of what constitutes acceptable "escapist fare" is a little threatening. I know the thought, "Wow, is some of the stuff I portray while roleplaying this sick?" crossed my mind when I read some of the rituals.

    Since no one is advocating censorship, I don't see what the trouble is. We can agree or disagree that a certain product (or the imagination that produced it) is "sick" and leave it at that.

    I think it has been established that Edwards was dead wrong in his criticism of McKinney and Raggi. They didn't water down their content. If his critique had been leveled at TSR in the late '80s, then he'd have been spot on--they caved.

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  150. >That's awesome that you've been able to accomodate a broad variety of people at your table. I'm betting its because you've put conscious effort into recognizing what each person wants<

    I think there is some of that, Raf. But I also have to admit that often in my life I didn't always have a huge pool of rpg'ers to cull from when starting up a campaign. Much like the job market now, it can be tough to get what you want. I didn't hang out at cons or game stores as an adult. I had to go for the very few people in my circles who actually liked D&D (or whatever), and recruit some newbies as well. I think that accounts for a variety of people at my table. I just do what I gotta with what I got (sometimes good, sometimes bad - just as long as we make lemonaid when lemons are around).

    As far as the whole rape issue, I think my biggest complaint would be (as a Lovecraft fan) "why the fuck would Cthulhoid entities care about the wizard raping somebody? Sure, energy is released by suffering just like death. A christian Satan might go "yeah, do it by rape and then cut her open and choke her out with her lower intestive" but I don't Hastur would put much thought into that. that would be the human doing it in his preferred way "Heh heh, I think I'll rape her for torture instead of just pulling her fingernails out before killing her..."

    I'm getting Carcosa (me cheap ass will get the PDF), and if I were to run it I wouldn't make it vanilla. But I think I will make the particular pecadillos the players choice. Just cut the bitch, or rape her up - your choice.

    I see where McKinney is coming from and I know he isn't necessarily a sick bastard. But I still gotta head scratch about the parent who reads the game blurb on the Carcosa site about infant death and rape of all ages being part of the magic, and deciding they will run a somewhat watered down version with their kid. Not that they are sick, but..

    OK, enough yammering from me. Have a great, long weekend ya'll!

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  151. But I still gotta head scratch about the parent who reads the game blurb on the Carcosa site about infant death and rape of all ages being part of the magic, and deciding they will run a somewhat watered down version with their kid. Not that they are sick, but..

    It's a rpg supplement - you have the ability to pick and choose which parts you use. Gamers have been doing it for 35+ years, it's not rocket science. Credit parents with having some intelligence and common sense.

    Ironically Brunomac, now that you've stated publically you're going to buy a copy, you'll be joining the ranks of we sick bastards, who are obviously so because we supported the author too. At least you'll now be able to form an informed opinion and be better able to put your criticisms (of that 2% of the text) into some sort of real context with the whole document. I hope you post your conclusions on one of your blogs, it will be interesting to read them.

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  152. This is ridiculous FUD and I'm personally offended by it.

    This is ridiculous personal offence, but I do find the irony of it very amusing. :)

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  153. brasspen:
    You're saying pandering is a problem. And beautifully put.

    Thank you but that's not quite what I'm trying to get at.

    Rather, if we are going to psychoanalyze or assign a value judgement to various games or gaming styles, then take a look at what is apparently the most common form (from what I've encountered lately) the "accountant" mode as you put it (nice), which is basically the mass murder of weaker beings for the sake of "accounting."

    (Put that way, one can hardly blame them considering world politics: monkey see, monkey do)

    Rafial:
    These are all valid ways to have fun.

    Sure. Whatever floats your boat. I just find that style boring: meet monster/NPC, kill monster/NPC, take GP/XP, meet next monster/NPC, and so on.

    This is how it goes right? I hope I'm not misrepresenting the style.

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  154. "In the case of Carcosa, just reading a blurb about raping a little girl for 11 hours and then choking her out with her own hair speaks volumes."

    And I heard this guy Nabakov wrote some gross pedophile book. What a suck fuck.

    Idiot.

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  155. @Chris T

    Sure. Whatever floats your boat. I just find that style boring:

    As is totally your right! Not every person is going to be equally entertained (or even entertained at all) by all plays styles that fall under the giant tent we call roleplaying. I certainly don't!

    meet monster/NPC, kill monster/NPC, take GP/XP, meet next monster/NPC, and so on.

    This is how it goes right? I hope I'm not misrepresenting the style.


    At a high level, but to be fair, it's a little more nuanced than that (at least the version I'm thinking of). Play is typically organized into a series of set piece battles, possibly linear, or maybe with simple branching. Character death is a low enough probably that it's not really the issue on the table, rather the interest in the game comes from the tactical challenge of executing efficiently in a complex tactical environment. Completing an encounter unlocks some loot or some story, but the primary issue of interest remains "how far can we go on the resources we have?" There's typically also a secondary game of character building, again looking for the most efficient builds to enhance the player and the parties ability to execute tactically.

    Because this is a play model that is typical of, and well served by the computer RPG and MMO segment, it is the one that many "mainstream" players are familiar with, thus its current popularity.

    For my own part, I can and have played in this style enjoyably, but it's certainly not my first choice when given druthers. Thus me hanging out on this forum ;)

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  156. ChrisT, I was explaining D&D to an old cop once, this is how he understood it: "D&D is really about an armed robbery in disguise!" he exclaimed: "Kill the Monster, take the Treasure, is really, Shoot the Store Owner, take the Money!".

    Of course, it takes creativity and finesse on part of a DM to avoid degenerating the game into Ravage and Pillage Unlimited. As an aside, in the real world, all too often the situations turn into a truly violent version of ravage and pillage style beyond the imagination of any 15 year old munchkin D&D player out there. Check out the book "In the hot zone, one man, one year, twenty wars". This is not to say that historical experience does not approximate at times the dumbest coventions of fantasy role-playing.
    Having said that, I prefer realistic play, meaning that my players face inetlligently led bands of orcs, goblins etc, with leaders who make the most of their circumstances. If there is a random humanoid encounter, than in my campaign there is a lair somewhere, a tribe, a home. 1d6 Goblins don't just come out of nowhere, they all come from somelace and the loot taken off their bodies will tell a story if the players have enough brains to look, and I had some DUMB players that don't. Intelligently led, a band of Kobolds can be formidable to a high level party. Put an 8th level knight in Plate Mail armor into a 15' pit, then dump a bunch of oil, light it and keep dumping more oil... How many saves, how many Kobolds? I had a typical first level party of six, led by a 3rd level fighter almost defeated by a band of 20 goblins defending their Dungeon led by a cunning chieftan... Who mathes their HD in a direct confrontation?

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  157. @Boozy The Bear said:

    "Intelligently led, a band of Kobolds can be formidable to a high level party."

    Perhaps you're recalling Tucker's Kobolds (http://www.tuckerskobolds.com/). Although I slagged him above, Roger E. Moore did lots of cool work such as this editorial in Dragon #127.

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  158. Yeah, something like this.
    KObolds, by the original Gygax definiton are malicious little critters hell bent on destruction. In my campaign, they were created by the spirit of Coyote, the native american Trickster deity. (to give my setting depth, each humanoid race is some Deity's Creation, humanity being Christian, with a pluralistic panthenon of the AD&D setting, each deity tried to improve on the original Creation, with various results). That's my take on the subject to cut through the drivel of the second edition "monster mythology", which is horribly condescending to monsters. To be honest, I play fair - there were only 20 Goblins with various goblin warparties having a chance to sneak in to help every 24 hours. This could have been 1-3 wolf rider scouts, 1-6 heavily armed wqarriors or 1-10 poorly armed rat hunters with spears. I didn't give them any superfeats and only used them intelligently. If the PCs posted guards, My Tucker's Kobolds wouldn have been able to eat the party's donkeys.

    My Kobolds wouldn't do anything supernatural. They would likely dig a pit and have casks of lamp oil ready. Separate the Knight from the party by letting loose a wolf or a bear, anathema to magic users and poorly armored thief, maneuver the knight to the pit and Presto! Could the Knight avoid charging the Bear or some other lumbering nasty? Of course! Will the party think of a trap inside a battle they are winning? Unlikely! The key here is not high or low HD, it's that humanoid monsters are organized into a society and have an organisation. Why waste them as player fodder? Also give players both, options to avoid combat and a moral necessity to fight. My Gobins took players relatives as captives in a slave raid and torutred unarmed villagers for entertainment. They weren't just intelligent and organized like humans, they were also mean and hateful enemies of the players. Just as native americal Trickster isn't this cuddly dog thing of the New Age, he laughs like a hyena and is not a nice guy, like my Kobolds, not so much comic relief, as cunning opponents, not trustworthy at all plus moral ambiguity.

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  159. The ritual in Carcosa involving raping the girl and strangling her with her hair reminded me of something in a crappy d20 book I own called "Devil's Player Guide". As far as I know, this book did not create a huge controversy even though it is "diabolical rules for fiendish player characters".

    Fast Forward Entertainment was hardly a well regarded third party publisher, but still, check this out for comparison with the Carcosa ritual:

    Lust
    Ritual: Only male characters may perform this ritual. The ritual requires one living virgin per character level of the individual wishing to perform it. Each victim is selected for her beauty and all must be present against their will. The victims are bound and gagged using ropes woven from their own hair or clothing and are placed together in the same room. Under the watchful eye of the attendant devil, the ritual's performer then rapes each victim in turn, slitting each one open from neck to navel when he is finished. In the course of the ritual, which may last several days, the performing character may not eat and may only drink the blood of each victim after he kills her. A character must be at least 13th level to perform this ritual and receive its desired effect. Upon completion of the ritual, the character gains +2 Constitution and -2 Charisma in the course of transformation.
    Result: A character performing this ritual becomes a hamatula (see Devilish Races).


    While this does not specify that the virgins have to be young or white, it does involve raping, killing and drinking the blood of AT LEAST 13 virgins in the presence of the other virgins and a watching devil.

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  160. Above is an example of the First Amendment protected speech. Having acknowledged whoever's cosntitutional right to publish this for D&D, I find this obscene and repugnant, would never use this in my game, except as something for which the evil NPCs would have to be destroyed. I can't see anyone sane role-playing this in a serious game. Nope, Carcosa is not for me.

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  162. @Brooze

    I think you've put your finger on the problem with the rituals. They are presented as play options for the PCs (i.e., the protagonists in the "story"), rather than just being described as despicable deeds performed by NPC villains. This is why the Nabokov anology given above is totally spurious. Lolita doesn't recommend that the reader go out and sleep with underage girls; it's a cautionary tale about the totally demoralizing effects such a course of action have on a grown man. We might have sympathy for him at times, but we're hardly led to believe that it's the right or smart thing to do. It's not a jailbait fantasy. In Carcosa and similar RPG products, certain (presumably desirable in the context of the game) outcomes can only be achieved by the PC by committing the prescribed atrocities. This is free speech, but that doesn't necessarily make it palatable or socially acceptable.

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  163. "Lolita doesn't recommend that the reader go out and sleep with underage girls"
    Neither does Carcosa.

    "it's a cautionary tale about the totally demoralizing effects such a course of action have on a grown man."
    So is Carcosa.

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  164. And I heard this guy Nabakov wrote some gross pedophile book. What a suck fuck.
    Idiot<

    Jeez Will, reel yer neck back in, will ya? Nobody is calling anyone a pedophile, or trying to burn a pile of books. You want that in your game, something the player HAS to do in order to operate in that world, then you go girl. I ain't mad at ya.

    But in a free country (so to speak), I can scratch my head and wonder why a parent would want to run such a dark, hopeless setting for their kids even without the marathon rape rituals. Am I really that closed minded for this? I don't think they should be lynched or jailed, but it just is weird to me. Sorry if that makes me idiotic. Du-uh....me idiot.

    Like has been pointed out a bunch of times already, nobody is calling for censorship, or trying to get a circa 1984 D&D witch hunt going. Friggin relax, dudes.

    I've run games where I had to oversee some pretty foul acts, and not just the kind where you bully kobolds, collect their treasure, and run off laughing with gold and XP. I haven't run that kind of game since Jr. High. I've evolved my game.

    At around 15 years old for laughs I ran a Monsters! Monsters! Game with monsters taken from the Monster Manual. Young frost giant, carnivorous Ape, etc. At one point the Ape drags a very young girl into a barn, and rapes her and eats her. We all laughed so hard because it was so insane and so out there and unlike our usual dumbass games. Flash forward 10 years later to the early 90's and I'm running an evils campaign with Anti-Paladins, assassins, etc. The assassin worships a death God, and has a thing for invading village family homes, and raping the women before killing everybody.

    This happened almost every game. He would go off, and I had to provide fodder for him (and yeah, I think the player had weird rape fantasies - I knew the guy pretty well and rape often entered one way or another into his characters histories/actions). I didn't go into detail for two reasons. One: I had mostly girl players at that time, and although not many where wilting flowers I still wanted to have some respect for them, because the laughter that came in those games were of the nervous kind. And two: although I am no censor-heavy Dick Chaney loving family values prude, it made me uncomfortable to provide rape fantasy for a dude. So basically, just like TV and most movie rape, I cut away from the "action" and left it to everyone elses imaginations.

    I think that was a good way to go with it. As a bitter old school fart on rpg.net often says...

    "Mileage may vary - yours."

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  165. Nobody role-plays Lolita.
    Problem with role-playing something like Carcosa rituals is that everything imagined is real in its consequences for both the individual and society.

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  166. "eez Will, reel yer neck back in, will ya?"

    You're the one that compared Carcosa to pornography. That shows such a complete and utter lack of knowledge about the way the material is actually presented that it is truly breathtaking.

    To summarize: You're ignorant and you have nothing of value whatsoever to contribute to this discussion.

    "So is Carcosa."

    Exactly. Amazing how many people don't get this just because the author chose to give his audience some minimal amount of credit for being mentally-competent. Admittedly, that is rare these days.

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