Monday, March 9, 2009

I Throw Down My Half-Assed Glops and Scratches

Warning to my hothouse flowers. This post has Teh Swears.

Apparently, James Raggi over at LotFP has a bug up his ass about some of us in the RPG blogging community. Apparently, we've been Doing It Wrong, and James has kindly condescended to set us on the straight and narrow path. Behold the words of The Great Raggi:
I've glanced at a lot of people's projects that are happening on the web so far. And it seems that the scratches they're throwing online are it. Not a first step in development, not a statement of intent, just glops thrown out half-assed (it doesn't matter how big it is if it's just a sketch and some notes) and accolades taken in.

I don't care. They're not finished.
Perhaps I am being somewhat presumptuous, but I can't help but think that The Great Raggi has taken a peek at my own efforts and is lumping them in with those of Amityville Mike and the forthcoming project of James Maliszewski (which apparently was the impetus for The Great Raggi's post in the first place) as the object of his wrath. (Apologies if I'm overlooking anybody's projects; it's an exciting time for such things. EDIT: I just realized I forgot Sham's excellent "Dismal Depths" megadungeon!) And he apparently doesn't like the fact that (at least in the case of what Mike and myself have done, and from the descriptions we have, James will be doing), we are presenting our works a bit at a time, in easy-to-digest chunks. How dare we! Proper modules should spring forth from the brow of Zeus fully-formed, with all the levels in place and every page to be had.

Except, of course, that doing so would essentially mean telling folks, "Hey! I'm working on this great megadungeon project. But you can't see it. It's not done yet. Come back in a year." But what, exactly, is wrong with seeing things in pieces? You play so much that you can't wait a month for the next level? More power to you. And that's even assuming that such a project would ever truly be considered done. Gygax's original Castle Greyhawk wasn't. Ever. At any given time there were at least two levels being worked on, expanded, or added. So... work on that dungeon forever, but don't you dare publish it in partial form, because...
They're not finished.
Heavens, what heresy TSR committed back in the day by publishing D1, D2, and D3 as separate modules. And all those encounter areas in the Depths of the Earth unkeyed! That's not finished! Therein lies Problem The First, in the eyes of The Great Raggi.

The Great Raggi continues...
If the Old School Renaissance is going to amount to little more than rules clones, limited-scope "single quest" or "dungeon bash" adventure modules, and pdf-only huge maps with scarcely any detail... what's the point?
Problem The Second; we aren't putting enough detail in our unfinished dungeons, damnit! Huge maps demand huge encounter keys! Paragraph upon paragraph of rules embedded in stat blocks; what, is the DM supposed to actually crack open a Monster Manual during play!? What the hell are we thinking!? And how, just how is anyone supposed to run a game if the complete motivation of every single monster in the dungeon isn't laid out, the complete inner workings of the rivalries between groups, notes for every contingency in a trap spelled out in excrutiating detail? What if the player's poke at a covered pit trap with a 10' pole!? "YOU HAVEN'T TOLD ME WHAT TO DO", seems to go the lament! After all, there's "scarcely any detail" for the DM to use.

Except, of course, that that is the entire POINT of this sort of module; recreating a minimalist style that encourages-- nay, demands-- the DM become actively engaged in the creative process himself. The notes don't say what the relationship between the wererat and the hobgoblins is? Make it up your own damn self, assmunch! The players are poking around in the empty room and there's no paragraph of text to tell you how many chewed up bones are in the corner? Roll the first die that hits your hand or just make it up! That's what old-school DMs do. If you want to be hand-held through every possibility, and need someone else to "do your imagining for you" and give you exhaustive detail for everything, I hear there's a great game that just came out just for you. It's called 4th Edition.

But The Great Raggi continues, and informs of of the wants, needs, and desires deep in his "secret place"...
I want books. Actual, in my hands books, that people have put their heart into and maybe believed and invested in a little bit so they aren't just thrown up on Lulu at no risk while some third party makes any profit there is to be made. There are things out there that are good, are ready, but they just sit on a website.

Call me old fashioned (I love hearing that from people deep in the "old school") but I believe things that are only online don't count for shit and might as well not exist in the end. (does anybody else here back up their blog content in case Blogspot or whoever is hosting your individual blog has an "oops" or a complaint and wipes your shit out?) I consider this blogging exercise one of communication and idea-exchanging, perhaps a way to test some concepts out before moving forward, not in anyway useful for actual content.


I want books that can inform my overall game, not just adventures that take up a session or three. I want things that will survive the current fad of "retro gaming," no matter if it goes on to its previous oblivion or becomes corrupted by eventual commercial success. I certainly don't want a notebook full of net printouts. I certainly don't want POD jobs (whose companies double-dip, as you know the starting print price includes a cut for them, plus they take a cut of every sale...) from people who take so much pride in community participation that they treat shit submissions with the same respect as magnificent ones (I'm seeing that sort of attitude in some quarters).
Problem The Third: we aren't sending people stuff in the mail, personally, from the big pile of boxes in our garage. We're either lazy fucks, or Selling Out to Capitalist Pigs, or something...

We have committed a further sacrilege; we have incurred no risk! Fiends that we are, we have not put forth any of our hard-earned lucre where our proverbial mouths are, and simply vomited forth whatever hackery came forth from our monkeys-banging-on-keyboards design process and expected folks to just come along and download it. For free. What were we thinking!? And woe betide the person who resorts to print-on-demand! Such evil witchery will doubtless earn us a place on the stake when the Old School Inquisition visits our far-too-humble abodes. Real Designers don't just invest time into their work-- thou fool!!-- they invest a token amount of money into printing it out themselves, and then pour their heart and soul into the visceral act of stuffing envelopes and schlepping said envelopes to the local post office. Because print-on-demand services aren't really a way for self-publishers to take their work to the masses efficiently; they are the tool of Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of Capitalism, and must be evil because they dare to make a profit on the hard work of others. Infamnia! Taking the time to hand-write an address on a Tyvek envelope is vital to the act of connecting with your readers! Take heart that each and every one of them will know that you care. All twenty of them, but it's not numbers that count, but heart.

Except, of course, that this working-class-hero bullshit is just that. I could easily print out a bunch of copies of Castle of the Mad Archmage at my local Staples, and mail them to folks who send me a couple of bucks. But what the fuck would anyone gain out of that? Do you really think that anyone who wants a hard copy of my module, or Mike's, or anyone else's, can't slap it onto a USB drive, hie their asses over to Staples themselves, and get a very nice copy printed out on 17"x11", saddle-stitched, with a cardstock cover into the bargain for less than it would cost for me to send it to them, if you factor in the shipping? Is there some magic about the fact that I am doing the printing and the stapling, rather than you? Unless we're talking 3-color printing, or a hardcover book (and you can get those on POD sites, too), this is such a strawman that it's hard to even knock it down without wondering why everyone doesn't realize the fact. And guess what? Some people actually prefer to read things on a computer. *GASP!*

You want "actual, in your hands books"? Print it out your own fucking self, James. You want something "that people have put their heart into and maybe believed and invested in a little bit"? Buy a Bible.

And, finally, The Great Raggi gives us a parting piece of advice...
But to do that, we need to give people (at least the option for) things that they can use at their table, things they can read sitting on the can, or on the bus, and not things that require them to be in front of their frickin computer all the damn time.
It's called a printer, fucktard. Buy one. Until then, feel free to do yourself the favor of not downloading those half-assed glops and scratches that I have heedlessly thrown down. They're obviously not meant for you.