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Thursday, 26 November 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: A Beautiful Obituary, and a Forge Obituary

A Beautiful Obituary, and then a Forge Obituary

The death of Gary Gygax continues to make news in the world, the NYT and the WSJ (New York Times and Wall Street Journal), as well as the BBC, CNN, and many other mainstream media outlets have reported on it. And obviously, gamers of all stripes are talking about it on their blogs.

But beyond just gamers, nerds in general are doing it. Nerds who have been gamers only in their past, or only in passing, or only as one part of their geekdom. There's no question that Gary Gygax was an essential figure in Geek Culture as a whole, the way you didn't have to be a hardcore trekkie to mourn the death of Gene Rodenberry.

One of the best obits I've seen thus far is from a general nerd, a dude who's blog is called Websnark. If you check his blog, you'll also see a really above-par obituary for another recently dead and much lamented figure: William F. Buckley. As to his obit for Gygax, its a lovely and factual account that takes in Gygax as the man, flaws included, while making clear Gygax's significance and place in history.

Meanwhile, the one group that seems hell-bent on not giving praise, or even at least shutting the fuck up, are the Forgies. Ron Edwards shut down someone's attempt to start a tribute thread at the Forge, declaring it off-topic.

And this asshole Matt Snyder, the creator of a Forgie "western" game, but don't look for it to be about shootouts and saloons (...hey, "Shootouts and Saloons", that'd be an awesome name for a western RPG!) makes a blog entry declaring that Gygax was "just a guy who made a game, the end". He says "Clinging to Gary so you, the self-conscious gamer, can avoid feeling alone and awkward in your nerd shame is giving Gary a lot more credit than he deserves."

Ah, the typical contempt for the average gamer, the hatred of D&D, the sense of disgust at having icky normal people all around you and not being put up on your pedestal like the special fucking snowflake, the bowel-shattering arrogance of it all; all coming from a guy who's chosen hobby is so pathetic that it has to latch onto the gaming it so hates like a parasitic infection, Storygaming digging deep with its pincer trying to suck all the life out of RPGs while simultaneously spitting poisoned bile into Gaming's bloodstream.

Let me give you a hint you fucking nob: mourning great men who accomplished great things is normal. It is a feature, in fact, of one's humanity. The social misfit in this instance would be you, who feels so insecure about his own capacities as to have to shut down his own humanity in order to act elite and above it all in the vain hope someone will recognize some kind of "specialness" you DO NOT IN FACT HAVE.

Your pseudo-intellectualism and quasi-artistic elitism are nothing more than a pathetic cover for your own mediocrity, just like all of your ilk over at the Forge and Storygames, pretty much the only people who've pissed all over Gary Gygax even now after he's dead but before they've even put him in the ground.

The Forgie hate of Gygax is an obvious one: he was the REAL "indie designer", the one who's done the thing none of them could do. Various things in fact:
1. He invented something new.
2. He invented something popular that people wanted to buy.
3. He turned his own writing out of his basement into a bestselling industry.
Not a single one of the supposed intellectual giants (read: gnats) over at the Forge or Storygames has managed to do even one of these things.

How couldn't they hate Gygax?! Their "theories" are supposed to be perfect, and explain what's "wrong" with Gaming and how to make "better" games; only NO ONE wants to play or buy their "better" games. Meanwhile the sometimes-friendly sometimes-crazy always-passionate grandpa over in Wisconsin (come on, when did anything suitably pretentious ever come out of Wisconsin? It's like America's Zone of Anti-Pretentiousness!) continues to have a game that appealed to MILLIONS of people, and continues to be loved and respected by the "losers" and "shameful nerds" (to borrow Mr. Snyder's term) and "unwashed masses" that they think should be bowing down to them because they dress clever and say things that sound clever and use big words that are so clever even they don't know what they actually mean!

So of course they'll piss on his grave.

Luckily, for the rest of us, the world as a whole inasmuch as it remembers Gary Gygax will remember him fondly; and luckily for the rest of you I'll be here to show you how much of a gang of scumbags the Forgers really are, so that their own efforts will only highlight how badly they fail in everything that Gygax succeeded at being, starting with "a decent Human Being".


(march 7, 2008)


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  2. Gygax was a talented game designer. He had a vision behind his design philosophy. This was the reason I chose AD&D 1st Edition as a ruleset to run my fantasy campaign over all the other rulesets I considered. It was the sheer comprehensiveness of it over other D&D clones and retro-clones.
    Gygax business ethics, on the other hand, were abysmal. He took an evolving trend in a gaming scene and made it his own by ruthlessly denying participation to other gamers who took part in the process as he started commercializing it for himself. (How many gamers from the Lake Geneva group ended up with jobs at TSR?) He first excluded the folks from Arneson’s group, and then he pushed out the other gamers in his own group. He pushed out Dave Arneson, when the game became a huge success, and he in turn was pushed out by the TSR board of directors.
    What karmic justice, eh Pundit? Gygax simply outmaneuvered himself by handpicking that Williams gal for the TSR board, didn’t he? And it gets better still.
    It appears that as a consequence of his own peculiar conservative beliefs, which led him to mistrust banks, he did not try to secure a business loan to underwrite his first print run of the ODD rules, instead he started giving away control over his creation by offering a stake in the venture to business partners. The sum in question was two thousand dollars, about eleven grand in today’s money. I asked old timers, they said that back then two thousand dollars was a lot of money, but it was not impossible, and even doable to get a two thousand dollar business loan, especially with the assistance of the Small Business Administration of that day.
    Had Gygax made a better decision early on, he would have never lost control over the TSR.
    I suspect that his ruthlessness and nearsightedness were part of the same package of personal qualities, that made him alienate Danny Kaye’s widow, who sold her 1/3 share of the TSR to the Blumes, who already had 1/3 share, giving them the majority.
    Nothing is black and white, of course. Playing at the World, which has enough source annotation to make it a scholarly work on the hobby, mentions that Gygax gave Arneson a job, office and time at TSR to do game design, but that Arneson did not produce anything much, and left the TSR shortly thereafter.
    Another point worth noting – after his departure from TSR, Gygax wrote Castles and Crusades and Lejendary Adventures, two fantasy role playing games, but they did not break any new ground or take the gameplay in any new direction from D&D, as far as I can tell. Gygax’s Oriental Adventures book is an absolute gem, his efforts at writing fiction notwithstanding, but he was never able to develop any other game system beyond D&D. That is interesting, and points to a possibility, that Gygax appropriated for himself something that evolved in a group that he was a port of. That is nothing new. Others have done it on grander scale.
    To me, a talented and prolific game designer worth his salt would have struck out and created his own Forge to take the hobby (and the business from TSR) in a new and different direction, but Gygax never did.
    BTW, Pundit, the Forge may have imitated an elitist European post war nouveau art movement, and their GNS theory is contrived and off base, as far as I am concerned, but your OSR movement is just as bad. Your scene consists of a bunch of small wannabe Gygaxes, who want to make money off their hobby. That kind of entrepreneurship tends to make people ugly. (I’ve seen this in other instances, besides OSR) They see people in their group as potential competition. They tend to associate with people, who can help them, while blowing off people, who can’t. In addition, a person, who wants to make a buck off you, can never be a real friend to you, s/he is a retainer, if anything. That is why there is a noticeable difference in social interaction between the mini-gygax DMs and the DMs who simply play and not seek to monetize their hobby.

    1. He had been calling the OSR purists the OSR Taliban for years. You can't even accuse him of favoritism at this regard.

  3. Agreed. Had he a sense of humor, he would have made an awesome wizard. His likeness was featured in a Tank Girl comic book in the early 1990's.