Monday, January 4, 2021

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Like everyone reading this post, 2020 was not at all what I expected it to be – not that I had a very clear notion of how the year would unfold in the first place. However, I can safely say that, at this time last year, I did not imagine we'd be living through a once-in-a-century global pandemic that would upend or otherwise alter some many of the things we take for granted. On a more personal level, I did not imagine that I would be returning to this blog after a nearly eight year absence or that the response to my return would be so overwhelmingly positive. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the innumerable kind words and well wishes I've received since August. They have buoyed my spirits more than I can express and that has helped me immeasurably during the second half of the past year, as the weeks and months wore on and I despaired of things ever returning to what I might recognize as normal.

The truth is, despite regular encouragement from many, I had no intention of ever returning to Grognardia. When asked, I would typically explain that, much as I missed writing it, the blog was, in many ways, a reflection of my mind and thinking at a particular time in my life and that, being in a different mental space now, I'm not sure I could revive it, even if I wanted to do so – and I wasn't sure I did. My original run on Grognardia, while productive in many ways, coincided with a time in my life that was from happy one and among the bitter fruits of that unhappiness were myriad poor decisions that nearly destroyed me. Fortunately, thanks in no small part to the love and kindness of family, friends, and colleagues, I made it to the other side, humbled but intact. 

In the time between December 2012 and August of 2020, I was still involved in the hobby, though in a much more low key – and less public – way. It was during this period, for example, that I began my House of Worms Empire of the Petal Throne campaign, which will celebrate its six-year anniversary at the beginning of March, with four of the original six players still involved (and joined by three other regular players and many more occasional "guest stars"). It was also during this period that I made my first foray into the world of fanzine publishing with The Excellent Travelling Volume, a great deal of whose content has been generated by the House of Worms campaign. The 'zine has been well received in the world of Tékumel fandom and, while I continue to wrestle with the obstacles of being a micro-publisher producing a niche product for a very small audience, I nevertheless consider this to be one of the highlights of my time as a RPG writer.

Indeed, my work on The Excellent Travelling Volume is what likely planted the first serious seeds in my head of returning to Grognardia. I enjoyed (for the most part) interacting with Tékumel fans around the globe, as well as the process of acquiring illustrations, working with my superb layout artist, and dealing with the perils of printing and postage – the latter two especially perilous during 2020. After producing a dozen issues of the 'zine, I was itching to do more and knew it, but what form that "more" would take I did not yet know. It wasn't until I encountered Mörk Borg at the suggestion of a local friend that I finally received the mental kick in the pants needed to blog once again. Even in retrospect, I still can't completely explain why his weird little Swedish RPG got me to do something I'd more or less vowed never to do. 

To say that I was apprehensive when I pushed "publish" on that review last August is an understatement. Moments after doing it, I was sure I'd made a terrible mistake and that I'd regret having foolishly let my enthusiasm get the better of me. As it turned out, that snap decision – I literally wrote the review and posted it in one fell swoop with no thought beforehand – was the right way and I was very soon deluged with congratulatory and encouraging emails, which, as it turns out, was just what I needed nearly half a year into our current circumstances. If many of my emails are to be believed, it was also what a lot of others needed too. I can't tell you how many people thanked me for blogging again, saying it was a vital pick-me-up in the midst of a tumultuous time.

Reading that did my heart good and filled me with so much energy and enthusiasm that I wrote like a madman during September and October, producing more posts in those months than any in the entire history of this blog. Such a pace was not sustainable, of course, and I slowed down somewhat in November and greatly in December. I recognized that, if I even attempted to keep writing four or five posts every day, I'd burn myself out and that's not what I wanted at all. I'm still trying to find my footing, figuring out the "proper" rate at which to post. Though my general rule is "post when you have something to say," I also know well the importance of having a schedule. 

All that said, it's good to be blogging again and I'm hopeful of striking the right balance between writing to the point of exhaustion and being so lackadaisical that I don't write on a regular basis. I'm fortunate in having several series of posts that provide an obvious structure for my posts. There's also my Urheim project, to which I need to return, though that represents unique challenges in terms of presentation that I'm working to overcome (chiefly the need for artwork, which is partially subsidized by my generous patrons). I also plan to continue interviewing notable figures from the history of the hobby, but those interviews can take a lot of time and effort, so their appearances are unpredictable. 

I've had better years than 2020 – I've also had far worse ones – but it also marked my return to doing something I love: blogging. I won't even attempt to predict what 2021 holds, only that I plan to continue doing what I've been doing here over these last few months. With luck, I'll settle into a rhythm that's both satisfying and sustainable. Until, I beg your continued indulgence and once again thank everyone who's taken the time to send me words of thanks and encouragement. They mean a great deal to me and I consider myself blessed to have such generous readers.

16 comments:

  1. I didn't start seriously reading Grognardia until you had gone on hiatus (I had found some of your posts by Googling old modules as I gradually decided to get back into the hobby). Once I did, I ended up reading through your entire backlog and was overjoyed to learn you had returned. Although our culture doesn't want to acknowledge it, none of our closets are without skeletons, so I'm glad you overcame them and returned.

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  2. I am glad you're back! I missed a chance to game with you back at OSRCon in Toronto, and for that, I will forever kick myself. I wasn't that up on the scene since my re-emergence into gaming, so I guess that's my excuse. Anyway, thank you for your insights and your creativity. To 2021 and beyond!

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  3. Looking forward to more Grognardia (and Grumpnardia) through 2021 and beyond.

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  4. I echo the many others who welcome your return. Grognardia continues to bring me joy and thoughtful new ideas regarding the hobby. Thank you, and as always I look forward to your next post whenever you are led.

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  5. I'm very happy you're back. At a time when so much seems wrong, Grognardia being active again is one thing that feels right.

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  6. It's good to have you blogging. Don't burn yourself out, I'd say, but blog what you want when you want to. If it's not something you're enjoying, go ahead and stop again for a bit. I'll be here when you get back. :)

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  7. James! I'm thrilled you're back. Your regular input is a collective benefit to to the RPG community, but I'm also very pleased that you see how much appreciated you are. You continue to bring value and are held in high regard. Keep up the good work, Mike!

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  8. I checked your blog regularly over the past 8 years hoping that you had started blogging again and I somehow missed hearing about it. It’s hard to explain the excitement that I felt when I saw that Mörk Borg post in August.
    Glad you’re back!

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  9. "When you find yourself going through hell, keep going." 2019 was a horrible year for me personally, and my entire family was looking forward to 2020. Yeah, that worked well. But, we have no choice but to continue on, for there is no going back.

    I remember when I saw your blog pop up again on another blog's roll and I said "Huh, that's weird . . ." and found you again. Welcome back.

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  10. Glad to have Grognardia back. I checked every month, for six years, for new posts.
    Excelsior!

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  11. I stopped blogging a few years ago for various reasons to do with real life circumstances and dwindling enthusiasm, and I largely stopped reading OSR blogs too - with a handful of exceptions. The surprise return of Grognardia was certainly a bright spot in an otherwise grim year. I especially enjoy the Imagine instalments for nostalgic reasons. (I still have many of those magazines.) Also, I was vaguely aware of Mörk Borg but i finally got around to buying it because of your review. I was not disappointed. I look forward to whatever comes next. Who knows? Perhaps if time and inspiration allow, I'll cast raise dead on my own humble blog one day. Anyway, enough blether from me. Welcome back, and happy new year!

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  12. Really enjoy reading the blog. I am a fairly "vanilla" 5e guy who once played Rolemaster / MERP...but recognize that the early days of the hobby were filled with a sort of amateur enthusiasm that fully deserves to be celebrated. It's a real pleasure and joy hearing you do this, even if I have no intentions of playing Empire of the Petal Throne, Mörk Borg, etc. Thank you for picking back up the "pen".

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  13. James, I am very happy that you have started blogging again. I love the voice you have in your writing, and the variety of content that you provide. This was all missing when you stopped blogging, and I realized that I had been passive in providing feedback and support for what I had enjoyed. I am glad that you have been overwhelmed with positive responses.

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  14. James, I just wanted to tell you. I am a gamer of the same general era as you. I got white box for Christmas in 1978 and couldn't really understand what to do with it for months. It was hard to follow, how to play this new game. I got that it was role playing but not the mechanics, because they weren't well articulated. I had to take a summer, non-credit offering at a local community college on role playing while I was still in high school. This was on the west coast and I was lucky there even was such a thing. I had some idea after the class what to do and even had a mimographed combat chart that needed to be added to the white box rules to be able to play it. I tried but it was kind of a mess and it was only in fits and starts did play occur thereafter. Then the Holmes bluebook rules came out. They made sense, immediately mechanically. Then the AD&D books were released and I haven't stopped playing RPGs since. Ultimately, I went a different way and prefer crunchy rules to rules light. Rules that are more stimulative such as hit location, etc. I don't think you'd even like my game. I created my own and even ran a company selling it for several years. Now I do it for the sheer joy of it. That is the long way of saying, I am in a very different place gaming wise than you. But, and it is a big but, I love reading every single thing you write about RPGs, what influences your thinking and what it means to you now. Your writing is informative, and your voice is a clarion call to where gamers of our era are coming from, and how they see the current RPG world. I try to be honest with myself and I'll just state they are more gamers to your way of thinking, than mine. That's okay. There is room for rules light and rules crunchy. Please keep up your writing and thank you for doing it. You will always have this reader waiting for the next article. Thank you.

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  15. More than a decade ago I read an article online (I think in Wired Magazine) by a fellow who had rediscovered his old box of D&D modules in his parent's attic. It reawakened my own love of rpgs and led me to the then burgeoning OSR and soon to Grognardia. I greatly enjoyed reading your memories of the early days of the hobby (as well as articles about more current aspects), many of which mirrored my own experiences. It's good to have you back.

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  16. It's so good to see that you are back! I was overjoyed to see that you've returned to the blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

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