Sunday, March 30, 2008

What's a Grognard?

Welcome to the beginning of a new online venture.

This blog takes its name from the French word grognard, which means roughly "grumbler" or "grouch." The original grognards were a group of veteran soldiers of the Napoleonic wars. Also called "the Old Guard," they had fought under Napoleon in many of his campaigns and, though loyal to him, were often unhappy with the way they were used in battle by the emperor. So they did what any unhappy soldier does in that situation -- they complained. A lot.

(To their credit, les grognards reputedly complained in the presence of Napoleon himself rather than being backbiters. Most versions of the word's origin imply or outright state that the term was coined by Napoleon himself and was one of affection.)

When the board wargames craze took off in the early 1970s (yes, there really was a wargames craze), John Young, the editor of SPI's Strategy & Tactics, one of the most influential wargaming periodicals at the time, took to calling the hobby's old guard -- those who played prior to 1970 -- grognards. Like the original grognards, the wargames versions complained a lot, but they also had a great deal of experience and so were seen as a valuable resource when designing and playtesting new games. The term eventually took broader hold and, since roleplaying games evolved out of wargaming, it came to be used in that hobby as well, although with a bit less affection than either the Napoleonic or wargames version of the term.

RPG grognards are popularly held to be fat, bearded guys who go on and on about how things were better "back in the day" before "the kids" ruined everything. I don't think the history of roleplaying games since 1974 has been one of continual decline, but I do think a lot of good stuff has been lost or at least forgotten since then. One of the purposes of this blog is to discuss that good stuff and its importance for and applicability to the hobby today.

Never fear: there will also be grumbling, grouchiness, and complaining aplenty! I may be neither fat nor bearded, but I can rant about kids today with the best of them.


  1. I don't know why you're doing this. Nobody wants to hear what you have to say...

    *grumble grumble*

  2. Punk kids and their anime art. And get your damned feats off my lawn! ;D

    Welcome to Blogger, James.

  3. When I played D&D we walked up hill both ways in the snow....

    ok, im only 26, but still. That was fun to say.

  4. A bit of cheeky thread resurrection but I saw the trailer for Ridley Scott's Napoleon today and wondered whether there will be mentions of the grognards.