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Friday, 30 March 2018

RPGPundit Interviews Rob Kuntz (Part 3 of 3)!

Here's the final part of our interview with Robert J. Kuntz, one of the founding fathers of D&D!



Check out Part I here, and Part II here, if you haven't already!




7. What do you think is the biggest thing (or things) that most of the so-called cognoscenti who have published or written extensively on social media about the origins of D&D have kept getting terribly wrong? Or vital details that they've totally omitted from their narrative of the origin story?

A: It is not my purpose with my upcoming work (as it was not with Dave Arneson's True Genius, TLS, 2017) to compare through its content what is wrong with previous works on the subject of D&D's history.  If that comes up at all it will by and through the readers of my works and by way of their own comparisons.  I am concentrating, in large part, on what has not been done as ascertained from such works, such as my the primary design-oriented approach I take with DATG, for instance, which had never been done.  Concerning the latter there's a very good reason for that, for these previous books are not written by designers but instead by historians who are mainly collectors and arrangers of information.  But the interpretation of design information is not their forte, so this is where I fill in that immense void, especially when that intersects with the recurring question of "What is a role playing game?"

However--and given my unique position within the primary historical stream of that history--I will state the following about the research forms (or procedures) used or not used in generating such matter and as I have noted to date:

They do not include, for the majority of cases, a well rounded view by not taking into account existing living persons information from that time. Because of that there are omissions, incorrect dates, and often times conflicting stories, etc. which are then (and still) forwarded as history.

In my case alone, though I could probably speak for others but won't, I have never been approached to confirm or deny secondarily sourced information about myself, about what I was involved in and/or have primary knowledge of, even though
my name is referenced many times in these works.

I also get the feeling that the information source (again not including people, just what they printed in the past), "if it is not in print" at some arbitrarily assigned cut-off point in the past that "it doesn't count."

Now take into account my finished expose on Don Kaye that I've mentioned, above, and counterpoint that against such an artificial construct.  Does Don Kaye's history exist or not because someone finally wrote about it but had just verbally transmitted it prior to that? As one can readily fathom, the whole proposition becomes absurd from a scholarly point of view, kinda like a news reporter covering an airplane crash insisting that the information derived from its survivors is only "true or verifiable" when printed or broadcast.

Couple that arbitrary procedure with a proclivity to not interview
primary sources from that day and you can start sensing a developing void in the holistic subject.




8. You, like myself, have not been shy about your political views and ideas. Is it fair to say that you think the influence of the "SJW Left" on the hobby has been pernicious? And if so, what are the biggest ways it's been a problem?
 Also, do you think we're losing ground in that sense, in terms of the culture-war fight for the hobby? Or are we starting to win?



A: The idea that politics should have anything to do with gaming is a non-starter for me; that is, anything but the ideology of fun and the freedom to express that fun in different ways.  Freedom is a Conservative concept.  Whether you are Left or Right, we all basically rely in America, and in this industry, upon some basic Conservative principles:  freedom of speech and association, security in the pursuit of what those freedoms may entail as long as we do not interfere with others in those pursuits, and a free enterprise market with which to share our ideas.

So anything that steps outside of that is not freedom, it is the attempted restriction of freedom, in fact.

Has the Left in this hobby-cum-industry attempted to constrict freedoms by pushing against or by making attempted ends-around them?  I have experienced some of this.  People are less tolerant these days of certain freedoms because world views have become polarized.  They are more apt not to see or even understand what freedoms mean and that these are a two way street.

When that happens you may be on the track to a perniciousness which is where true discourse ends and emotion takes over.  In my view this is more problematical with the Left as their ideas of equally accorded freedoms are sometimes conditional (and thus do not pass the Conservative POV that I have noted, above) and very often, and perceptibly, many on the Left talk down to others who would challenge their views and from the perch of a self-created moral high ground.  Such views might even be considered elitist at times; and at the very least I have certainly always seen them as judgmental.

Now, that said, I cannot maintain a greatly informed POV on how this may have impacted our industry-hobby; I have some personal examples, and some from adjacent industries, like film or comics, but otherwise I hear such stories as aftershocks.  I am somewhat absent from our hobby in that particular area.

But I do believe that such negative paths are best avoided for the healthy exchange of ideas and the progress we seek within the hobby.  In either case people will fall where they may within such a free association structure, but when that structure appears to exclude constructive criticism or inclusiveness based upon a certain strain of "smell test" then we have moved from free and open association to a sort of club member verification ritual; and that has never been part of this hobby, but it certainly could be compared to the Old South mentality of segregation and exclusion.

Now, I am aware that this polarization has reached every part of our society and it does seem that lines are being drawn everywhere, and mostly by the Left.  So I am not surprised that the majority of instances where I hear passing stories involves such POVs which I do not rank as discourse or freedom.

Are we winning?  Well, no.  The longer a polarization exists in America, no matter in what sector, no unity can exist and thus the views will remain divided and potentially volatile.  One cannot win as a group like that, whether small or large.

People in my view should just concentrate on what makes this  hobby worthwhile which is the fun and great experiences derived from creating and playing games.  It would be better while doing so to forget about projecting any politics into it other than in defense of those freedoms as I noted above.  Humans being humans, there are always going to be opposing POVs, that's to be expected.  So it's best to leave politics out of that as we are already disposed, being individuals, to having enough frictions that guarantee edging up our boiling points to begin with.



9. OK, last question: do you have a favorite game designer/writer in the modern OSR (the new generation, if you will)?

Oh, these types of questions are really impossible to answer, especially from another designer such as myself.  The reason being is that design is supposed to, in my view/attitude, advance beyond the known and not just rearrange previous bases by way of different thematic overlays and minimally tweaked mechanics.

So this forces a singular comparative analysis for each which is not always so easily reduced to a 1st or 2nd, etc. categorization.  I am more interested in what designs (and their designers) accomplish by way of what has not been done, a more difficult assessment when my views (past, future or present) are brought to bear for that comparison.  Notwithstanding all of this objective/subjective rigamarole, I do have what might be considered some personal (and/or professional) metrics.

For example, I liked what Jeff Dee did with Cavemaster.  The reasons for that particular excitement on my part were simple:  He brought a difficult theme and integrated the historical information as a comprehensive design which really appears to project you down its imagined path and he did so by adding in some unique systems for it, which essentially is what GDW originally did with En Garde bitd.

Kyrinn Eis also did this with her World of Urutsk; but I appreciate her design endeavors for different reasons than I do Dee's.  They forward holistic design attitudes (RPG, board game extension, miniature rules) and thus push the design horizon to integrative levels while at the same time introducing stream-lined mechanics.

I am not in touch with the majority of current designs as there are so many of them.  I'm a designer and thus my focus is design and not critiquing other designs, the latter which would be a full time occupation.  But from what I have read and experienced when time or circumstance allowed, the above-mentioned would be considered in my professional view as very encouraging examples of design.



10. Postscript question: are all your elves gender-fluid?

A:No, but their stunt doubles may be depending upon the clauses in their union contracts...


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That's it for this interview. Let me know who else you'd like to see me interview!

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + H&H's Chestnut

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