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Gygax taken to task by Slate

Discussion in 'Dungeons & Dragons + Other RPGs' started by Giles Barskins, Mar 12, 2008.

  1. Giles Barskins Gems: 6/31
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    [​IMG] Here's the article:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2186203/?GT1=38001

    I think the author is pointing out a flaw with any RPG system, not just D&D, when you have a boring and unimaginative DM and roleplaying group. Citing WoW as a case-in-point is unfair, because as we all are aware, circumstances under which a CRPG can give experience versus a human DM is vastly limited and different. I don't see anything in D&D that does or has said "killing is the only way to gain experience". :mad: Looks like the author has been watching Mazes and Monsters a bit too much. :(

    Let's get this discussion going, folks.
     
  2. Death Rabbit

    Death Rabbit Straight, no chaser Adored Veteran Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    I know, I read this!! I was really surprised. Straight-up playah-hatin'.

    D&D is really the only old-school RPG I know anything about, so I couldn't really agree or disagree with any of his criticisms. I suppose this gripes about the experience system had merit, but again, I've never really given it much thought.

    I'm looking forward to seeing the responses on this. :)
     
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  3. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    It's really unfair since Gygax wasn't able to do what he really wanted with the franchise he had created and which evaded his control (first with TSR then with WotC). He was a pioneer but back in 1992 he did publish a new set of rules which he called Dangerous Journeys and he developed Mythus a fantasy rulebook and setting for this system (originally he planned many different settings using the same system, something that ironically was in some ways achieved by WotC with D20). Unfortunately this new system never really took off.

    He invented it all but he was a player and probably lacked business acumen. At the end of the day we should all be grateful to him for what he has done. He was certainly a major source of inspiration for other game creators and he contributed directly and indirectly in making RPGs what they are now.

    IMHO this article is full of $**t and even disrespectful to his memory. But like I said, that's just my opinion.
     
  4. Giles Barskins Gems: 6/31
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    Good points, Caradhras.

    The article is totally full of poop. Claiming that Gygax's legacy is the bastardization of role-playing that is MMORGs like WoW is wrong on so many levels. His lack of involvement and control of D&D while certainly frustrating to Gygax during his lifetime also exonerates him from any claims that he was responsible for what the franchise has become.

    The author’s belief that D&D limited creativity with character creation and options for solving problems with anything but violence is preposterous. Role-playing thrives on imagination! Good RPGers use their own personal creativity to make fun and interesting characters and situations. When you have unimaginative DMs and players, you get gaming sessions that look and sound exactly like what the Slate author represented. Good thing he’s not a creative writer because he would clearly suck at it.

    Gygax was the father of modern role-playing. But he was not there to smack down every single person who was too stupid or uninspired to use the tools he gave us correctly.
     
  5. lawfoster Gems: 1/31
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    My favorite quote was "What's wrong with Dungeons & Dragons? It plays like a video game."

    Let's put the cart in front of the horse, then, shall we? Video games copied D+D, so of course D+D will "seem" that way, but that doesn't make D+D in and of itself worse.

    And when D+D was created, it broke ground. If you want to complain about later versions of D+D not moving away from XP being generally tied to monster killing (and I play with a GM who mixes that with rewards for role playing), that isn't Gygax's fault, as he didn't do 2nd, 3rd, or 3.5. When he did it in first ed, it was all new and seemed natural enough. It is easy to criticize him by comparing 1st edition to later games that learned a lot from D+D.

    And, anyway, I remember back 10 years ago people who loved White Wolf bashing D+D as a hack fest, but then talking about their combat monster psychotic werewolves. It is all about how you play the game.
     
  6. Ziad

    Ziad I speak in rebuses Veteran

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    I'm pretty sure Gygax himself said something to this effect. He's said in interviews that the later versions of D&D (I think he was talking about 3E) put too much emphasis on the rules and too little on the DM and his/her creativity. Besides, while the early releases of D&D did have strange mechanics (such as the "lower is better" THAC0 and AC) Gygax himself is certainly not to blame for this staying in the rules for over a decade, as he wasn't with TSR by then anyway (and even then he didn't have total control of the company before leaving anyway)
     
  7. Gnarfflinger

    Gnarfflinger Wiseguy in Training

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    What makes a tree beautiful? You would say the great spread of leaves. But without a solid trunk and strong branches, the tree does not survive to show of these leaves.

    Likewise with D&D, the early editions were more about the basic mechanics, race, class, combat, experience points, magic, yada yada yada. This was the trunk of the game. If that is the criticism, then maybe he should look at second edition. In second edition, you add branches, like awards for things other than combat, non weapon proficiencies and more campaign settings where the narative experience and Role Play come to the forefront.

    When WotC bought out T$R, they decided to reconfigure the tree and branches to a more versatile system, to make a financial success where GURPS remains a niche product (Whether this is deserved or not is for another debate, preferably with people more knowledgeable in the system). It overhauled the skill system, changed the classes, brought in new high level options, standardized many things, and simplified many counter-intuitive things in second edition, but did not have the opportunity to address the concerns that Slate brings forward. The Jury is out, with the impending release of fourth edition, whether it will be more tinkering, or whether they will further develop the role play aspect of the game.

    One thing that I saw in third edition was a formulae for Story awards. To satisfy an NPC, you would get a reward equal to the experience points for defeating them in a fight, but modified for the actual risk of the adventure. This makes sense as more powerful NPC's need more demanding tasks done, be it things beyond or beneath them. It's not perfect, but it's a work in progress.

    Where WotC dropped the ball was in the discontinuation of some RP inducing products, like Ravenloft and Birthright in favour of flavour of the month cash cows (Evercrack, World of Warcrack, Diablo) that cater to the computer crowd that like the massacre and greed that Slate bemoans. They are the ones forking over $40 a pop for the books, so why blame WotC for catering to them? WotC has not completely neglected the role playing aspect. I have "Heroes of Horror", which emphasizes the story and role play aspects, while accounting for more game mechanics. I doubt this book is unique in the WotC catalogue...

    [rant]Speaking of White Wolf, I'm not letting them off the hook, because they take their place on trial here. They bought the Ravenloft liscence, and did not give it the development it deserved. There is still a thriving demand for Ravenloft products that has fallen to the internet community to satisfy. Many of their netbooks are legally available for free on their sites if you know where to look. But these are people that chose the setting not for a bloodbath, though Ravenloft could certainly deliver, but for the the storytelling.[/rant]

    Slate's point is valid, but the criticism is in the wrong place. Gygax was, as pointed out, pushed out of T$R in the early 90's, and as such could not guide the company in expanding the rules to help make the system more versatile. The real culprit is the DM and players that want specifically a meat grinder game. Not that that's wrong, but it robs the game of the rich story telling experience that it should be. I don't mind that on occasion, but I wouldn't want it all the time. In fact, some of us locally, devised a system where the role of the DM is reduced or altered for the purpose of giving us that meat grinder feel...
     
  8. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    Here are some quotes that should be remembered when considering rules and the role of a DM (Dungeon Master):

    It takes a really good DM to get rid of rules altogether but Gygax always stressed the importance of imagination and of cooperation between players. After all ever since the original D&D came out he maintained that the main difference with other games is that nobody wins or loses.

    Last but not least:

     
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  9. LKD Gems: 31/31
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    I finally read this article. The author is a moron. Criticism is easy and fun, but for it to be useful you need to know a bit more about what you are talking about. Gygax was a pioneer -- criticizing him because of what later designers were able to do using his pioneering work as a baseline is as logical as criticizing Ford for not putting anti-lock brakes and a remote starter on the Model T.

    Disgusting and disrespectful in the extreme.
     
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  10. Sir Fink Gems: 13/31
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    From the beginning D&D books always stressed that all rules were optional and a group of players and a DM could change and adjust them to suit their play style. I remember numerous alternatives being offered to the standard XP for killing stuff system as far back as 1st edition AD&D.

    Gygax (and D&D) came out of the war-gaming scene, so it's no surprise that there was an emphasis on combat and voilence. Back in the '80s I remember there being essentially two camps of RPGers: the rules-heavy AD&D kids (like me) and the nerdy kids who preferred to role-play some wimpy, broken-hearted pink-haired elf named Azrael who just wanted to be loved. That crowd played the story-teller type RPGs and hated AD&D. I get the impression this piece's author was in the latter camp.
     
  11. jaded empath Gems: 20/31
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    Beautifully retorted, LKD! I was going to make a note here that Steve Jackson himself made a rebuttle to the article over on Slate, saying much the same thing:
    Great minds think alike. :D
     
  12. Gnarfflinger

    Gnarfflinger Wiseguy in Training

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    But the current fear that Sofje expressed would be that the game has not evolved, and has stagnated into it's hack and slash roots. That charge should not be leveled against Gygax, but rather against WotC. They abandoned the formulae that they didn't like and instead went for a universalized system that can generate cash. They have offloaded the Role Play aspects onto the players with only a vague idea how to handle experience points in combat, let alone out of it, and focus on the mechanics.

    And they could be doing it again with fourth edition. Yes, they plan to update it to use the technological advancements of teh last 8 years, but only as much as a cash grab. Yes, I will buy the books (if I don't have to buy a new computer instead, but that's another rant for RBP), but I will be very critical, only endorsing it to my friends if I think it really is an imporvement on 3.5 edition. I don't rule out canibalizing it for my own purposes, but I want to know that that is more than just an attempt to get more money out of the gaming public before I schill for it.

    So where does that leave the vision that Sofje so classlessly championed? In the hands of the players themselves. His finger is wagged at those unimaginative players and DM's who play more for the hack and slash aspects. If that's what they enjoy, why try to force change? But on the other hand, you have the people like Sir Fink describes, who want more than just a bloodbath. It falls to the DM therefore to find the balance that out. My own group, I have players that want to have a story for their characters, but they love the bloodbath. I try to work their character storylines into the overarching story lines that I have thought of. And the battles tend to be bloody too...
     
  13. Aikanaro Gems: 31/31
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    I only skimmed the article, but agree that it's retarded.

    He's a one-true-wayist, but there are other ways to have a good game than that. D&D - when Gygax was still involved with it - doesn't pretend to do the things that he wants in a game. It's blatently about killing monsters and taking their stuff - there's nothing wrong with that. If you want to have narrative collaborative thought experiments crossed with improvisional theatre, you should go and find a system that's about that and not try and project that sort of play onto D&D. Of course you're not going to get the results you wanted - it's stupid to expect otherwise.

    I admit - I don't like D&D. It annoys the hell out of me that it takes up so much of the market and that many RPers aren't willing to try out other things. It's not a very good system. But then, I'm talking about modern D&D here, which is a totally different thing than the original. I think it would be a better system if had've just stuck to its roots and been primarily about killing things, rather than muddying the waters by continually adding more rules to try and cover more styles of gameplay.

    Also, holding up GURPS as the pinnacle of RPG design is silly. I have nothing against it - I don't even know that much about it - but from what he says he wants in an RPG it doesn't sound like it's going to give it to him. It's a square peg that fits his round hole a little better than D&D, but if he looked a little harder maybe he'd find a round peg...
     
  14. Gnarfflinger

    Gnarfflinger Wiseguy in Training

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    I've seen that in D&D, but it takes a really good GM and really good players. But it's well worth it when it works...

    Even though I love D&D, I aggree with that point. Let's face it, D&D, M:tG and Warhammer 40k are the big dogs, and as such, they eat first in their respective markets. While the other games may not starve, they don't get the respect they deserve. I used to enjoy playing non mainstream stuff when I went to a convention as much as the D&D.

    The Changes from 2nd to 3rd have been evolutionary. Trying to make the game simpler to pick up yet more versatile in terms of what you can do. From what I'm seeing of 4th, they still aren't satisfied.

    I disagree. Most of those changes came from the fact that players want to do more than kill things. AS the players have challenged the system it has had to evolve to accommodate those players. It's much easier on the DM when there are actually guidelines for dealing with the wierd stuff that players will think of.
     
  15. Aikanaro Gems: 31/31
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    Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying it can't happen, I'm just saying that D&D wasn't designed for it. It can definately happen, but it's against what the rules of the system primarily support.

    The system evolved into a mess though - there's definately such a thing as too much, and trying to stuff all sorts of play styles into one system leads to something less than elegant :p TSR should have, IMO, branched into other systems rather than just riding of the D&D name and putting everything in there.

    Not that this has anything to do with Gygax, which is something the author of the article seems to be missing. Gygax didn't have anything to do with later incarnations of D&D - he's hardly responsible for that mess. He made a solid kill-things type system* - expecting it to do more than that effectively is both the mistake of TSR/WotC and the author.

    *Please note that I'm talking out of my arse here, because I haven't ever read through the original D&D books and so don't really have any idea whether they're good or not. From what I've heard people say though, they did what they set out to do - fantasy squad based tactical combat games.
     
  16. Gnarfflinger

    Gnarfflinger Wiseguy in Training

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    I don't think any rules system can truly do that. Rulebooks, are ultimately limited to rules, and game mechanics. It falls to the players to make that happen.

    Of course. That's what happens when the corporate suits try to tell the game designers what to do. While the d20 system was a natural evolution of the rules, It could have been executed better, but left to their own devices, the system would be less of a mess, but more inclusive of different styles of play.

    Exactly. The Stereotypical gamers are the culprits. They look at the rules like a teenager with his first car--they want to see what they can make it do. They put more emphasis on making the toughest fighter, the most powerful wizzard, the greatest criminal mastermind, or what have you, as opposed to looking at the storytelling elements. Thus the game breaks down into a lot of killing.

    There are rules for other rewards, though they are mentioned in the DMG with little atention-grabbing things like big bold type or it's own box. The primary focus of the core rules is on character building and combat, which is basically what the players seem to want. The game mostly places the responsibility for story and role play to the participants.

    That they did. That is only meant to be a starting point for the game, but when they keep changing the basic rules, they run short on time to address the concerns that the author cites...
     
  17. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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  18. Aikanaro Gems: 31/31
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    I disagree, but this topic tends to lead to fail and flame wars (and is, besides, off topic). I'll send you a PM :)

    Edit: Actually, I might make a post on the matter soonish, with a better approach than I normally take. Plus it'll give me an excuse to waffle about Planescape - need to vent that obsession before I go mad with it :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2008
  19. Munchkin Blender Gems: 22/31
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    2nd Edition AD&D provided DM rules on how to award XP for various situations. In fact it is how I typically awarded quest XP, which was usually more than twice the XP a group would receive from killing all the monster in the quest.
     
  20. Gnarfflinger

    Gnarfflinger Wiseguy in Training

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    4th edition, while the emphasis is on combat, does have rules for XP for non combat situation (Especially negotiation, chase scenes, research and the like), as well as guiedlines for rewards based on objectives. As with previous editions, Role Play in it's purest form is in the hands of the players and the DM, but the books acknowledge that there are more than just kicking the crap out of kobolds...
     
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