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Sunday 29 January 2017

Classic Rant: On the Difference Between Gonzo and Stupid

So the Guy who Wrote "Isle of the Unknown" (and Carcosa) is Pissed Off at Me
Over on the ODD boards, a message board dedicated to original edition D&D (quite a decent board, but where a few hardline old-schoolers hang out, understandably), Geoffrey McKinney took umbrage with my recent review of "Isle of the Unknown", which I most certainly slagged.

In the now-closed thread, he claimed that I just didn't get Isle, ridiculously trying to gain brownie points with the ODD crowd by claiming I "must" be one of those terrible late-80s gamers. In his opinion, I must be one of those 2e-style fans of story-heavy Dragonlance and post-greybox Forgotten Realms. Likewise, I obviously don't understand "Gonzo".

The thing is, according to him, that Isle is really a "70s gonzo hexcrawl" in the style of Bob Bledsaw's Wilderlands of High Fantasy. And I just didn't get that. You know, because I'm not truly 'old school' like he is.

So let's clear a few things up:

Dude, I fucking love Judges Guild's stuff. City State is a masterpiece.

Putting it simply, Geoffrey McKinney: I'm very familiar with Bob Bledsaw. You, sir, are no Bob Bledsaw. And your arguments are patently absurd.

And the ludicrous idea that "Isle" was just too "gonzo" for me? Motherfucker. I wrote FtA!GN!, you ass. And have you seen my play reports for my DCC campaign? I fucking OWN gonzo.

But Isle isn't so much "gonzo" as it is "stupid". There's a difference, though some people just can't seem to figure that out. There are no "hidden layers of sophistication" in Isle. Its just a badly-written product. The monsters are shit, not because they're too weird, but because they're just not good; they're too fucking pointless. Its like a version of an OSR sandbox written by an imbecile, someone with some severe disorder, who caught the most shallow and superficial notions of what constitutes "sandbox" design, and utterly failed to even consider the most basic practices of good design. Anyone who's ever bothered to read anything I've written (including the stunningly positive reviews I gave products like DCC, Vornheim, or ADD) knows that I'm a fucking fanatic for random tables. But random rolls are where you START, not where you end, in creating something coherent.

Anyone who knows me knows that I can't stand dragonlance, and your attempts to garner sympathy here by painting me as a late-2e "not a real old schooler" is cheap bullshit. As for gonzo? I OWN Gonzo. Again, a cursory glance at my blog and at what I've published would confirm that.

As for your argument trying to compare your entries to the ones in Wilderlands, there's a crucial difference: Wilderlands' deals in archetypal creatures and environs. You're absolutely right that his one-liners are evocative, because we all ALREADY KNOW what Dire Wolves and owlbears are about. We can already figure out what the point of giant snakes are. And we are left to fill in with our own imagination the reason why a LE guy would be in charge of a town of LG elves (because alignment already means something).

All of these things do not require further elaboration.

Your garbage, on the other hand, was just an island full of one-time mutations that make no sense and have no point. Bledsaw's one-liners cover everything that's needed. Your three sentence entries are woefully inadequate, on the other hand, because there's no coherence to any of what you've done. Incoherent monsters in an incoherent environment that have no coherent verisimilitude.

I didn't dislike your product because it was "too old school", a cursory glance at any of my stirring reviews of a plethora of other old-school books (just go to theRPGsite and check out the Reviews section!) would prove that. I gave your book a bad review because it IS BAD. It is badly written. Its not drivel because I'm a mean old dragonlance fan who doesn't understand gonzo (a quick glance at my blog and the various DCC campaign updates would show what a crock of bull that is), your book is drivel BECAUSE IT IS DRIVEL.

You did a shit job, sir. Your book is garbage. And the thought that you imagine yourself standing on the shoulders of Gygax or Bledsaw when all you've done is fundamentally miss the point, and created a Potemkin Village of a Sandbox (just a shallow facade while missing absolutely everything that's important about making a sandbox work) just makes you laughable. Or pitiable. I'm not sure which.

Seriously, I never thought I'd look at something the author of motherfucking Carcosa wrote, and say to myself "fuck, he should have stuck to writing about pre-pubescent necrophiliac rape-magic".


(Originally posted April 30, 2014)


  1. Damn! I'm not familiar with that book. Link to your original review?


  2. Wow you really sound like a jackass.