To Arms, Geeks! Slate Blasts D & D

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I am well aware of the geek creds of many of the contributors to this blog, but in case you didn't know, a major icon in the Geek pantheon passed away this past week.  Gary Gygax, one of the originators of Dungeons and Dragons died after a long illness.  Most of the comments and obituaries have been flattering and full of praise.  Arguably, D&D is the most popular and well-known RPG and Gary Gygax, from what I can tell, was a decent guy and a good businessman.

The one exception to the praise was a snobby, elitist piece by Erik Sofge appearing in Slate.  Here are a few gems:

So while it's one player's job—the so-called Dungeon Master—to come up with the plot for each gaming session and play the parts of the various enemies and supporting characters, in practice that putative storyteller merely referees one imagined slaughter after another. This is not Tolkien's Middle-Earth, with its anti-fascist political commentary and yearning for an end to glory and the triumph of peace**. This is violence without pretense, an endless hobgoblin holocaust.

Or you can start slitting throats—after all, mercy doesn't have an experience point value in D&D. It's the kind of atrocity that commits itself.

I haven't played D&D for years, but I have mostly fond memories of the game.  It certainly wasn't perfect, but it offered a fun diversion to everyday life.  The author of this critique seems to think very highly of himself and is overly critical of what I remember most people wanting to do in RPGs, which was not being merciful to orcs.

**Tolkien was not writing anti-fascist political commentary, dumb ass, he was writing about the Romantic Movement as a counter to the Enlightenment (see this essay by David Brin).  The good guys in the LOTR weren't exactly promoting a democratically elected government.


Smitty 2:10 PM  

Tolkien was not writing anti-fascist political commentary, dumb ass, he was writing about the Romantic Movement as a counter to the Enlightenment (see this essay by David Brin). The good guys in the LOTR weren't exactly promoting a democratically elected government.

Yes, yes godammit yes. I love it when uppity authors pen an interpretation of a well-known and much-interpreted writing and essentially make it up to fit their case. I don't recall that it's Democracy when Aragorn vanquishes all his foes to become KING of Middle Earth. I dunno. Was I missing something?

By the way...the "dumbass" part of your retort was the funniest part. "DUH...everyone KNOWS that it's about the Romantic Age as a counter to the Enlightenment. Sheesh."

Smitty 2:32 PM  

Here's from the comments section on the douchbag author's article in Slate:

Steve Jackson, creator of the game the author flaunted as proof of his superior understanding of the hobby, had this to say about Gygax...

> Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and a gaming icon for more than 30 years, died yesterday after repeated strokes and heart problems. He was 69. Like the rest of my generation, I was introduced to roleplaying via Dungeons & Dragons because there wasn't anything else back then. My first, very lame, Dungeons & Dragons game was in college. Shortly after I became a (semi)professional and joined the Metagaming group, we started a D&D campaign, with Robert Taylor as the GM, and it was excellent. Decades later, I can still say that my biggest-ever thrill in roleplaying was when my first character got chainmail. No longer would I face certain death if I met an orc. If not for Dungeons & Dragons, "adventure game" would still mean "cardboard chits on a hexmap." Which I love dearly, but would it ever have gotten out of the garage? And that's the least of it. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson didn't just remake a hobby. They impacted all of Western culture. Fantasy fiction would still be a backwater had not D&D built an audience and a new generation of writers. Lord of the Rings would be something taught in college English classes, not a blockbuster movie trilogy. And consider: The direct lineal descendant of D&D is Worlds of Warcraft, which is, all by itself, what? A billion-dollar business now? For the last few years, roleplayers have celebrated March 4 as "GM's Day." And now it's the day when the best-known GM of all time put down his dice. Going forward, this should also be a particular date on which we recall Gary and his contributions.-- Steve Jackson

I think Jackson would be severely disapointed in the author for using HIS creation to denounce Gygax's. That's just a guess, though.

B Mac 3:03 PM  

Funny you should mention D&D. Just last week, the Israeli Defense Force came out against gamers:

18-year-olds who tell recruiters they play the popular fantasy game are automatically given low security clearance.

"They're detached from reality and susceptible to influence," the army says.

Fans of the popular role-playing game had spoken of rumors of this strange policy by the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces], but now the army has confirmed that it has a negative image of teens who play the game and labels them as problematic in regard to their draft status.

Um, okay...

Mike 6:22 AM  

I'll admit to not really being too big a fan of playing D&D, party because, as that idiot author noted, the Dungeon Master pretty much made up the rules as you went.

But I'll say this without equivocation: I fuckin' loved me some Monster Manual. That may be the best bathroom reading in history. Awesome.

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