Thursday, 1 January 2009

Top 10 Things That Have Pissed Me Off About Role Playing This Year

So shopping for a present for the wife put me in an ornery frame of mind earlier today. (We're spending the holiday period in different countries, for various unavoidable reasons; this allows me to shop for extra Christmas presents in the January sales and earn totally undeserved brownie points for buying lots of gifts. Fortunately she doesn't read this blog and I can get away with announcing my cheapness like this. But I digress.) And I feel that, since everybody else has been doing similar things, I should do a kind of Top Ten List. So here is the top ten most annoying things about role playing that I've experienced this year.

10. The fact that I don't get enough gaming in. Probably everyone reading this blog can relate to that (at least everybody who has a job/is married/has children/a social life or any of the above).

9. The idiotic moderators. Is there anything worse than a role playing nerd given a tiny amount of power over his fellows? That whole damn website is like an extended, free version of Zimbardo's simulated prison experiment, where a random cross section of geek society is elevated above its peers and immediately starts to abuse its position. With the redeeming quality that 90% of the other users are actually pretty nice.

8. 4e D&D. Just because, okay? You like it if you want to. I don't.

7. Online nerdspeak. Awesome involves awe. Sweetness is a taste. "Wicked cool" is not proper English. The abbreviation for "For example" is not "F'rex". Do piss off with your stupid, infantile, depressing, moronic shibboleths.

6. All that guff about the Rule of Cool. "
All but the most pedantic of viewers will forgive liberties with reality so long as the result is wicked sweet and/or awesome." No. The Rule of Cool may work with doltish audiences, but stop acting like it's a good thing. Wicked sweetness and awesomeness is not an excuse for lazy writing, planning or execution. Or are we now going to start giving Michael Bay Oscars? See above re: mauling of the English language.

5. The wearing of geekiness as a badge of pride. As Bill Hicks said, it's a judgement call, and I'm making it: You shouldn't be proud to call yourself a geek. It's an insult, and no, using it to label yourself is not "reclaiming the word". Love the things you love, and don't stand for other people calling it geeky. And don't allow yourself the lazy way out of life that geekiness provides. Comic books and role playing games are not a shield to protect you from the world, and they are not really living. Get off your arse and do something with your life, for Christ's sake.

4. GNS Theory. I hadn't heard about it before this year, and I wish I never had. As if pseudo intellectual buffoonery wasn't a problem enough in the real world, it has to pervade an innocent hobby in which fat bearded guys pretend to be elves.

3. Vampire: The Masquerade. Every year since its release until the end of time. Yeah! Let's take Dracula and turn him into an emo goth kid with black makeup who self harms and listens to crap music! And then we'll laugh all the way to the bank!

2. Japanophiles. See Appendix A. Get your own culture and stop ransacking other people's.

1. People Who Want to 'Do' Another Game With Another Game. You know, all those people who post messages on rpg-related forums saying things like, "I want to do a game set in the fourth age of Middle Earth, except using Spirit of the Century rules, but with the combat system from ORE, and the critical hit tables from Rolemaster, and the task resolution from Sorceror, whaddaya reckon? Aren't I just the best?"? Those people will be first against the wall, my friends, come the revolution.

I feel better now that I've got that off my chest.

Normal non-ranty service will resume in the New Year.


  1. "Let's take Dracula and turn him into an emo goth kid with black makeup who self harms and listens to crap music! And then we'll laugh all the way to the bank!"

    To be fair, Anne Rice did this many years before Vampire: The Masquerade came along to do it.

  2. In regards to Japanophiles: "English does not 'borrow' from other languages. Instead, it follows them into dark alleys and rifles through their pockets for loose grammar."

    Is it any surprise our culture does likewise?

    Though, I suppose, that doesn't explain the French adoration of all things Japanese.

    - Brian

  3. Ornery indeed, although I find it difficult to disagree with many of the points. ;)

  4. re T10TTHPMOARPTY #7.

    Awwww. Prescriptive linguists are *super cute.* My wife looks like she wants to punch me every time I say "ginormous." (Careful though: you're getting awfully close to an ideological position, don't you think?)

    I favor a descriptive approach myself, and tend to enjoy slang and jargon. I think the internet is interesting in that it's written language that often follows the conventions of spoken language, as well as creating its own techniques to make the written word more conversational.

    None of which excuses the semi-literate half-wits who *infest* most comment threads. Feeling as you do the comments on the average Youtube video might well make your brain implode.

  5. Fuck ALL you nerds.

  6. RE: #7

    I reserve the right to sound like a goddamn moron whenever the situation calls for it.

  7. Jason: I know, but I had to make this at least tangentially rpg-related. Also, I haven't read any Anne Rice, but have been forced to play V:tM. ;)

    trollsmyth: Well, all languages do that to some extent. What I don't get about the Japanophiles is: why Japan and not, say, Togo or Russia?

    Kelvin: You will be a commissar, come the revolution.

    Max: I agree with you, broadly, but F'rex just annoys the hell out of me. No ideology, here, except anti-F'rex-ism maybe. ;)

    Ogre: Constructive comments like that are always welcome.

    Jeff: And like Voltaire I will defend to the death your right to do so. Well, maybe not to the death...

  8. Coming in 2009-- lolcats, the RPG. "I'm in ur dungeon, slaying ur orcz"

    Just getting you started on next year's list.

  9. Yeah... good funny ranty list.

    Of course I disagree 55 times from here till tomorrow about the Rule of Cool (I'm like contractually obligated to do so).

    GMs are NOT writers. Spending inordinate amount of times agonizing over making an adventure with a flawless internal logic is not OK when that time should be spent being more creative.

    The Rule of Cool, when applied to appeal to the sense of the players is a good way of breaking out of that feedback loop so many GMs get caught in while writing a 55 page assay on the proper ceremonies of succession in the barony of Luzinia.

    Its a tool, not a way of life. nothing more.


  10. On first glance, it looks like most of your gaming-related frustrations can be eased by avoiding gaming-related message boards. It works for me.

  11. Unsurprisingly, I agree with pretty much everything you've said here, especially about the Rule of Cool; I hates it.

  12. What's up with number one? Is the problem with people mixing games together, or with their attitude?

  13. Joseph: I wouldn't be surprised if it existed already. That's the scary thing.

    Chatty: We'll have to agree to disagree. I know what you mean and understand it, and I absolutely think you're right about not writing 55 page screeds on ceremonies of succession and what not. I accept that adventures don't have to be internally logical all the time. But they do have to have something more than flash bang wallop coolness.

    Scott: You're right. But every time I try to get away, they pull me back in...

    Kelvin: Of course, what was I thinking?

    James: Great minds think alike, etc. ;)

    Thanuir: The mindset. It's perfectly fine to mix and match if you think it'll be necessary and/or fun. But so much of the time it just seems to be done to signify to the world that "I am awesome!"

  14. But . . . I enjoy geeking out. SERIOUSLY! I really do! Spending 4 hours watching Science Fiction on television, then spending 10 playing a trivia game all about it. I love hating Marvel just because, but secretly reading it and pretending not to enjoy it. I love calling D&D games "Geek Night". Just time set a side to practice all things geek! It feels good to shed the skin of normalcy, to fancy yourself an expert on a subject. What is more pompus, calling yourself, say . . . a Horror Expert, or a Horror Geek? Personally I'll take the geek.

  15. Ripper X: I like geeking out too! I wasn't getting at what people call geeky pursuits. I meant the kind of person who thinks it's cool to call themself a geek. Horror expert sounds pompous, yeah, but I don't like horror geek either, because it sounds like some special sub-category of horror fan. Why not just horror fan? ;)

  16. I hope it's just Re-Education Camp for me, for my occasional indulgence in "frex." I have more often been guilty of pompous pedantry regarding others' favored neologisms, which is clearly hypocritical!

  17. I semi-agree with some your Top 10 list, but I can't help but be perturbed by the majority of it.

    My top points of contention:

    "Nerdspeak:" The "English language" you're trying to defend is a collection of languages, not a pure creation in and of itself. As such, nearly every word we currently use is a corruption of some older word - which was, most likely, a corruption itself. So, my question to you is: At what point shall we say the language is frozen in time, and all further change is not evolution but corruption of a "pure language?" (I won't even go into how different segments of a society, as part of their show of solidarity, form their own mini-dialects - and have done so since mankind first started grunting out its own language.)

    Proud to be a geek: Well, I am a geek. So what should I do? Get riled at people who point that fact out? I say to you that being called a geek is only a bad thing if you are the type of person who would wield such a name derisively. (And, in my extensive experience with such types, reacting defensively to it only serves to stroke their inflated egos.) To those whom it actually applies, I say embrace the term, don't worry about what it means to those who would use it to offend. The things I like are geek-things, and I am a geek. A rose by any other name...

    Vampire: The Masquerade: Do enough people even play this game anymore for it to be worthy of such derision?

    Japanophiles: "Get your own culture?" And what culture would that be? The non-existent American culture? For 200+ years we've been incorporating cultures from around this world into our melting pot - so which combination of these cultures (or do I have to pick a single "pure" culture?) is acceptable for us to pursue?

    I wasn't going to do a "Top x" list for my year, but I think, after all, I'll do a Top 1:

    I'm going to take Scott's advice (sort of), and avoid certain gaming-related discussion forums (and blogs) - starting with yours.

  18. Oy, he's allowed to take issue with whatever bothers him. You might chill out.

    Noisms, I'd like to remind you that Rule of Cool theoretically only applies when the results are actually, you know... COOL.

  19. Dwayanu: Maybe a year or two of hard labour will sort you out. ;)

    Christopher B: Re: nerdspeak, I have no problem with the evolution of the English language. I just don't want it evolving in an annoying direction. Seems simple.

    Re: geeks, I don't understand why people are satisfied with being labelled, and giving themselves labels. Why limit onself by categorising oneself? And didn't you read my response to Ripper X?

    Re: Vampire, no, not a lot of people play it, and yet it still annoyed me enough to be put in my own personal (jokey!) list of irritating things. I'm not sure why that's a problem.

    Re: Japan, America does have its own culture, indeed many cultures. (I'm not American, by the way.) It's not about purity - it's about not plundering and cherry picking from other cultures in the name of being cool. I'd rather people have pride in their local culture, whatever it may be, provided of course it doeesn't lead them to disparage someone else's.

    Re: avoiding my blog, well, you can't please all the people all the time. This is just a private list of personal irritations. You can choose to be offended or you can choose to take it in the tongue-in-cheek spirit in which it was delivered. Up to you.

    Rach: Haha, well, okay, by definition I suppose that trumps ever criticism. ;)

  20. Oh, I disagree with a lot of things you posted here. Please let me explain.

    Point 10: Hey, I agree with you.

    9: Hm. I've been GMing for 25 years, and I never, ever allow myself to take one of my hobbies so seriously that I have top foam at the mouth because of it. No matter what happens. It's a hobby, for Christ's sake, so it's supposed to be fun. If it's not, then it's my responsbility to change something -- and I don't mean by discussing it, because this is the internet, and online roleplaying discussions are an exercise in futility.

    8: D&D 4th is not my thing, either.

    7: I'm German (and lived in the US), and I love English. Yes, that means online nerd speak, too. In my American Cultural History classes at university, we learned that lining languages are constantly changing. Constantly. This is a sign of life, so no need to be pissed of about it.

    Besides, there are far more people who speak English as a second language than native speakers. Wired magazine as well as scientific publications predict completely new grammars and words for English because of its use as lingua franca of the Asian world. Expect more awesome wicked coolness in all matters English.

    6: Rule of Cool. I love it. I embrace it. I've been using it (without knowing its name) for two decades of GMing, and it has given us countless hours of fun. And having fun is what roleplaying is all about. (Please note that you can have fun with tragedy, too).

    5: Oh, well. What are you? A gamers' rights activist? I'm 38, 210 lbs, active full-contact martial artist since 1984, work as a manager for Sony, I'm married. I've got a "real life". AND I call myself a roleplaying geek. So what the fuck?

    4: GNS is something that helped me understand different methods of play. I think it's helpful, and I often use it to explain roleplaying to others.

    3: Vampire. Aw heck, you're getting a bit boring with your attitude... You might have guessed it: I like Vampire. Because there are mature Vampire out there, too, who know that Vampire can be played very, very differently. No Gothic horseshit, but drama about lost humanity.

    2: Japanophiles. Why not? Or do you seriously think that any modern nation is still an original culture? Every country is a blend of the people that live in it.

    And since tv and the net are ubiquituous, it only makes sense that people make their own culture, just like most people make their own religion (parts of this, elements of that). Again, that's life. So what?

    1: Mixers and Matchers: please see point 2 in my list. Heck, roleplaying is a hobby, darnit. Let people play it like they want. And stop ranting about roleplaying. Play your game instead.

  21. Matausch: Thanks for the long comment. Hey, you agreed with 20% at least - I think my rating for my rants is usually a lot lower than that. ;) I don't always rant, by the way, or even do it very often.

    I kinda like ranting though, and find it both fun and therapeutic. So I'll quote yourself back to you and say, "So what?" I'm not making anybody do anything or spoiling anybody's fun. Just venting. I'm allowed to vent, just like anybody else can in their own blog.

    And as I said upthread, people are free to get offended, take umbrage or become pissed off, or they can take what I write in the spirit it was written - i.e. tongue in cheek.

  22. Did you know that some professors are allowing their students to use textspeak in their essays? I was thrilled to learn that.

    However, I have to disagree with a couple.

    I'm a geek. I'm happy to be a geek. I sorta enjoy it that way. ;)

    Also, just in case anyone didn't catch it, Ogre is, presumably, representing the view points of Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds.

    Also, I'm not sure why, I'm fine with being called a geek, but refused to be called a nerd.

    Also, I love me a good game of V:tM. And I *hate* a bad one.

    Please join my Togophiles group on yahoo.

  23. Lorechaser: Must have missed Revenge of the Nerds. Any good?

  24. I agree with everyone you said. I also have trouble understanding human emotions.

  25. Sregrebspa: If that's some sort of attempt at sarcasm or wit, then Christ, why are you bothering? Don't you have anything better to do than post inconsequential crap in the comments of other people's blogs? If so you have my utter disdain and pity.

    By the way, the word is spelt "aspergers", you ass. If you're going to "humurously" troll, then at least get the joke right, for God's sake.

  26. Please, please, if it doesn't already exist, we have to create the lolcats RPG...

    "I can haz +3 cheezburger?"

    "Ceiling cat needz a rang3d weap0n"

    "OH NOES! A big monster! NOM NOM NOM!"

    We cannot keep that from the world.

  27. I'm catching up on things and find fighting words. Emo is not goth, never has been goth, and as goth is my witness never will be goth.

    I'd said it before and I'll say it again: "Responsible elders don't let angsty teenagers grow up emo. They're ours."

    That's why a significant goal of my radio show is to make sure angsty teenagers turn into baby bats or at least kinder goths and not emo kids.

    And trust me, from the POV of the goth scene V:tM has at least as much to answer for as it does from the RPG scene.

    Other than that, I like the list.

  28. Herb: I bow to superior knowledge. I know the musical origins of emo and goth are very different. But because of things like V:tM and Anne Rice's books, the two things have become rather blurred in the public (and my) conscious.

  29. Re mods - the rpgnet ones are appalling I agree; ENW mods are usually fine though, within the strict ENW discussion terms. rpgnet just has a bad culture of erratic, heavy handed, politically slanted (to the left) modding. But it's not inherent in the nature of nerds I think.

  30. S'mon: I think it's inherent in the nature of humans, nerds included, to abuse modding power. Maybe EN world is just better at policing that?