Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Game Bloggers Round Table - pt 2

Continued from here.

BTBG: We all employ a game system that, in its root form, has been around for 30 years or so. Where do think these games will be in another 30 years? How about 90 years?

James M: I think the games will still be around in 30 years, thanks to the retro-clones, but they'll likely be played by even fewer people than they are now. In 90 years? Who can say? I'd be amazed if anyone outside of academia will even know what table RPGs are 90 years from now. I think the hobby in its present form is slowly dying and while “roleplaying” will continue to exist in some fashion, it'll be quite removed from what we know today.

James R: … I’ve got nothing. It’s probably going to be a very different landscape next year, let alone in thirty or ninety.

Thomas: I'm an oddity. I am a devotee to the original D&D game, yet I love and admire modern indie RPG's. The more "cutting edge" the better. My favorite RPG of the last few years was Mouse Guard. Using the Burning Wheel system it cleverly incorporates modern ideas of roleplaying with good old fashioned gameplay. Mouse Guard was truly a cross-over product that bridged the gap from the rpg crowd and the "popular arts" (the young comic book crowd). It seems like the old RPG industry is dying and it is fascinating to watch as they wither away with no clue what is going on in the world. It is the most exciting time for RPG's ever, with new technologies like the Kindle and iPad making it possible for a gamer to carry her entire RPG collection with her - and the biggest company in the traditional RPG industry: Wizards of the Coast, isn't even in the game (in the stupidest move ever, they actually pulled all their PDF's from sale!). The future of RPG's is your entire library on your eReader of choice, fully indexed with instant access to any text in your collection, along with dice rolling, character generation, NPC generation, and Adventure generation software instantly available. People will still gather around the gaming table to play because we humans are social creatures, they just won't have to tote around a dumptruck load of dead trees to do it.

Zak: I think that the most likely thing is, like wargames, they'll be around, largely unaltered in the basics and played by small groups of fanatics, though there'll probably be a few technological advancements in post-skype technology along the way. Maybe someone'll devise a multi-use digital gametable where you can download all kinds of games, like Monopoly or Risk or whatever as 'aps' and so tabletop D&D'll migrate onto that. And in 90 years probably programming will be so easy and widespread that people will all be doing their own little avatars and maps and programming the sprites to talk and what-all and that'll be what GMing largely is, programming the table. My guess is the pizza will actually arrive slower, at
least here in LA.

Michael: I honestly don't know. We as a species are headed for some turbulent times and changes as we deal with an uncertain energy future and the possibility of climate change of some sort. I think that as a species, the oral tradition is strong and still vibrant. I think that as long as we can imagine and share that imagination, some sort of group fantasy adventure will happen.

BTBG: We haven't heard much widely-publicized outcry against D&D lately from the right-wing religious community in a long time (which we all know was great publicity). What do you think you could do to help get people outraged again?

James M: Me personally? Not much. I'm a pretty boring guy.

James R: Dude! Doing all I can!

I commissioned art depicting sex and extreme violence – sometimes in the same piece. I’m probably seriously on the line of obscenity laws in some territories. My game has boobs on the front cover, for crying out loud. I’m releasing Carcosa in a big deluxe format and the past controversy is going to be part of the marketing.

I just hope it gets into the right hands. I want to be on 60 Minutes, damn it, just so I can agree with everything that everyone says about me. “Do you agree with the critics that say role-playing games harm children’s minds, making them join Satanic cults and commit suicide?” “Yes.” “Are you a Nazi Child Molester from Mars?” “Yes.”

But I “consume” this sort of “media” anyway, so it’s not just a crass attempt at exploitation or antagonism – it’s a reflection of what I like.

Thomas: D&D long ago caved in to the zealous religious community by removing all references to devils and demons, besides there are bigger fish to fry nowadays. BTW. I consider myself to be a basic Christian, and I see no conflict with playing D&D and my faith. Any more than using an axe to cut wood, where an axe murderer might use an axe for other, more nefarious purposes.

Zak: Be a video game.

Michael: Walk naked while carrying AD&D books. Open to the page with the naked women.

BTBG: Obligatory Game-geek exercise: Describe yourself in RPG terms - Class, abilities, etc.

James M: In D&D terms, I'm probably a Sage with Humankind as my Major Field (History, Legends & Folklore, Philosophy & Ethics, Theology & Myth) and the Supernatural & Unusual as my Minor Field (Metaphysics). I'm Neutral Good with a tendency toward Lawful Goodness. My ability scores are all pretty mediocre except whatever one it is that represents having a good memory, in which I've probably got a 15 or 16.

James R: Normal Man, only stat possibly above average is Intelligence if I’m lucky, but no more than 13 or so.

Thomas: This is actually hard since my profession, artist, doesn't map well to D&D classes. But let us say an artist is like an illusionist which is like a magic-user: Thomas Denmark, Human CL 3 MU 5, S 9, I 13, W 12, D 10, Cn 10, Ch 8

Zak: I am seriously too hungover to handle that question right now.

Michael: Pass. :)

BTBG: Gygax said "The essence of a role-playing game is that it is a group, cooperative experience". How important to do you think this is, and why?

James M: I think it's very important, although I'm not sure I'd agree that it's the “essence” of a RPG. To me, the essence of this hobby lies in imagination, though it's a shared imagination, so, in that sense, Gygax was right. It's the act of entering into a shared fantasy that separates roleplaying games from other types of games and it's such a powerful idea that it's spread far beyond tabletop RPGs into books, movies, video games, and elsewhere. I may be pessimistic about the likelihood that our hobby will survive into the future, but I have no doubt that the core ideas laid down in those three little brown books in 1974 have very long legs indeed.

James R: For me that’s not the most enjoyable part, but it is the payoff and the justification for the parts I most enjoy. The best part is the creation of a world or adventure location, putting it together and making it work so that it feels like an actual place. The RPG context sets a boundary, and I find such parameters helps me be coherently creative. But all that is useless without real people to make use of it, to muck around, and to see if it breaks, and to see if they enjoy the process.

Thomas: Who am I to argue with the master? He summed it up pretty well.

Zak: That's the most important thing, to me. A lot of people rattle on about the integrity of the Game or the World or the whatever, but if I just want to be a creative little snowflake--well, I'm a painter, I get enough of that at work. For me, D&D is like a party, and the DM is throwing it, and all the arts and crafts are wasted if it's no fun and everybody isn't better friends afterwards.

Michael: It is the utmost important thing. Without a group, without cooperation, the game doesn't reach its potential.

BTBG: What's the most ridiculous thing anyone's ever said to you or asked you about RPGs?

James M: It was probably a teacher in the 9th grade (that would have been 1984) who genuinely believed that D&D was the work of the Devil. Fortunately, none of the other teachers I had at the time agreed with her, which, even at the time, suggested to me that the people who were “bothered about Dungeons & Dragons” were few in number but very loud in expressing their displeasure.

James R: “You mean the entire point of the game is to roll dice?”

Thomas: It was how he said it, more so than what he said, that disturbed me when I was 13. My dad asked, in fearful tones: "are you a...Dungeonmaster?" It was obvious by the way he asked the question that he had heard horrible things about D&D and feared that the answer was yes. It was.

Zak: Oh sweet jesus. The mail I get is like...Ok, probably the most persistently ridiculous reactions are the people who--despite massive documentary evidence in nearly all media yet devised by mankind--do not believe my gaming group exists. Yeah, dipshit, it is all an elaborate scam, because blogging about playing D&D and twittering "Hey @BobbiStarr, what about Friday?" pays so much better than making porn and selling paintings for five figures. Because really girls can't play D&D. Because of how it's rocket science. And only boys like rockets, or science.

BTBG: What's the biggest difference between a rock star and an old-school gaming blogger?

James M: I have to discard all the blue M&Ms myself since I don't have any toadies willing to do it for me.

James R: Rock stars have to travel to do their thing. Bloggers can get free stuff, women, and fans without leaving the house.

And rock stars are probably skinnier on average.

Thomas: Old-school gaming bloggers have really hot chick groupies? Oh, wait, I got that backwards.

Zak: In the local case, the difference is that we sleep with exactly the same women, only I do it first. Except Maynard, who likes them young.

Michael: Millions of dollars.

BTBG: When I sit down to run a game, I have to arrange my books, dice, etc, in a very particular way before the session starts. Do you have any pre-game rituals/habits you observe?

James M: Not really. I always sit in the same spot at the table and place my dice there, but, other than that, I don't really have any rituals I regularly observe.

James R: I “prime” my dice. I take all the dice I will use that session, and roll them as a big mass. I separate the ones that come up on their highest value, and then reroll the rest. Repeat until they’ve all come up their maximum value. If the d20 is the last to come up high, then I predict a bad session. If something else comes up high first, then I predict a good session.

Thomas: Brandy. Several shots of brandy.

Zak: My traditional opening mantra is..."Where the fuck is my orange notebook? Mandy, have you seen my orange notebook? Does everybody have their character sheet? Well why not, they're right there? I do not know where your dice are, can't you just use...WHOA, SORRY, ok...Alright, we'll start as soon as Kimberly is done texting" And she goes "No, I'm ready, I'm just..." and I just kinda look at her until she puts the iphone down.

Michael: Sort my dice. Roll the wandering monster dice (with the skull representing the 1 pip) and see what comes up.

BTBG: What's the sexiest piece of art in a pre-1984 gaming book?

James M: Gee, there are a lot of good candidates, but I'll confess to a certain fondness for Sutherland's illustration of the succubus from the original Monster Manual, although Jeff Easley's illustration of the slumbering Drelnza from The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth is another worth considering.

James R: This is rough, since I don’t look at any of that art and think “mrowr!” But that succubus at the back of the DMG has that soft body and looks to be in need of some reassuring....

Thomas: Everyone knows that it is the succubus by Dave Sutherland III in the original Monster Manual. Duh!

Zak: I have no choice but to go with the infamous busty Succubus, but that's only by default. "Sexy" really took it on the chin in early game art.

Michael: I guess I don't see any RPG art as "sexy"? That's why the whole debate on sexism kinda passed me by. After seeing what's on TV, movies, etc... a huge chunk of mass media culture is aimed at sexualization and extreme stereotypes... and I just don't seem affected by it. Now whimsical... I love old school art for the whimsey.

BTBG: How about the most frightening?

James M: Again, there are a lot of good candidates but I think Erol Otus's illustrations of Lovecraftian beings and gods from the early printings of Deities & Demigods are among the most personally frightening I can think of -- his depiction of Shub-Niggurath, for example, is the stuff from which nightmares are made.

James R: Not much of that stuff scares me now, but based on what I used to think, Monster Manual – Night Hag.

Thomas: The cover of Eldritch Wizardry always disturbed me.

Zak: Mmmmm...Fiend Folio--Needle Man.

Uhhh... none? I don't find any of it frightening?

BTBG: Blogs and games can be largely private affairs. What's the "geekiest" thing you've ever done in public?

James M: When I was a teenager, I appeared in public as the Peter Davison version of the Doctor from Doctor Who. Mor recently I dressed up as Cosmo from The Fairly Oddparents for Halloween -- I even dyed my hair green!

James R: I’ve gamed in restaurants, made little amateur comedy videos in public.

I keep finding out about local zombie walks after they happen, and that’ll probably be the geekiest once I find out about one ahead of time.

Thomas: Um, this interview? No seriously, in high school I once asked the hottest cheerleader to go out with me. It didn't go well.

Zak: Well we did that TV show. That's kinda public. My paintings are sometimes arguably geeky--like the picture for every single page of Gravity's Rainbow or this thing I drew last year which as like a 12 foot wide D&D labyrinth. And, y'know, I've been seen in public with Keith Baker.

Michael: LARP'ed.

BTBG: Thanks guys!


  1. Well that one answer didn't come off as tongue-in-cheek as intended. :D

  2. I'm so getting my Groggie card yanked. "Larped" Bwahaha!

    Of course if a certain Chris F who ran MYTH (Make Yourself the Hero) in the early 90s ever wants to restart a game... dude... gimme a call! :)

  3. In the post apocalypse rpgs will be the game of choice, used to teach the youth about the perils of the alien future in preparation for reclaiming the homelands.

    Except for those people who don't know how to garden and hunt, those guys are screwed and will spend time eating each other

  4. hmm, I thought I corrected that. Mouse Guard did get an award - the year after.

  5. @Thomas - ack, I knew I was forgetting something! Its corrected now :)

  6. "James M: I have to discard all the blue M&Ms myself since I don't have any toadies willing to do it for me."

    There actually was a reason for that: they'd put something like it or something like it in the middle of the prep list as a safety measure - if they had done that weirdo thing that there was no reason, it was pretty safe to assume that they'd done all of the stage-building stuff right.

  7. Your roundtable was a fun series! Thanks, Al (and participants).



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