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Showing posts from February, 2020

That time I met Gary Gygax

A lot of gamers today seem to revere Gary Gygax as a saint. (He lived from 1938 to 2008.) They write about “Gygaxian play” and the real “spirit of Gygax” in games. I agree that his early games and modules have a charm and freshness that goes with their pioneer status as original to the hobby. He ran one of the two first D&D campaigns, the other being that of Dave Arneson. But Gygax's design is not stellar. His prose is pretentious, his game systems were okay, but, as he was a founder, he deserves lots of credit. When I met Gary Gygax, it was at GenCon, I think in 1992, probably my last time to GenCon. In those days, nobody in the gaming circles I knew thought so highly of Gygax. D&D was not a big deal at all. Other games had all the attention. Gygax’s recent game Cyborg Commando (1987) was an absolute rip-off, with a box of rules that did not even contain everything you needed to play. As I wandered around the GenCon booths, there was a new game being pitched:

Send in the clones, the D&D clones...

One amazing feature of the table-top role-playing game hobby that developed in the time that I was away is the absurd number of D&D clones available now. Thanks, guys, but vintage rules are freely available already for those of us who do not already have them stored in old boxes. There are dozens of these things. Rather than designing new games with better rules, gamers seem to have made a small industry of amateur inferior products based on the original amateur inferior game. It’s like rolling to check for traps over and over and over… There is something fun and fresh about amateur products. They do not carry the plastic reek of corporate greed. Yet, as I read about the imploding OSR scene, it turns out that they are no more immune to the bane of corrupt leadership and factionalism than TSR was back in the early days that some gamers remember as sunny, happy times. Take Lamentations of the Flame Princess . Am I the only one who can’t help laughing at this game? It’

Inclusive game worlds make for inclusive gaming

One thing my parents got right, for which I remain grateful, was that they explicitly taught me and my siblings that a person’s worth has nothing to do with skin color or ancestral origin. This mattered. When I was a kid, in the 70s and 80s, the people of my town were almost entirely white. To her credit, my mother encouraged me to befriend the new non-white kids whose families moved into the area in a trickle, without mentioning anything about their not being white. In hindsight, now as a father, I see what she did. The one African-American boy I knew, James, was like my other friends in the 80s. He liked fantasy, sci-fi, and games. When Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay came out in 1986, James and I started a Warhammer game. He made a character. When I asked him to describe the character, he said, “He looks like me.” I asked him what he meant, and he said “black.” I paused. Two irrelevant and stupid hangups came to mind. First, I usually encouraged players to take characters th