Sunday, 9 August 2009

No, liking 1st edition does not make you a badass.

It's funny how geeks, who really should know better, like to divide themselves into in-groups and out-groups based on their own interests being "cooler" than the others. You can see this in lots of areas. Fans of Star Trek (Original Series) like to see themselves as somehow superior to those who prefer The Next Generation, perhaps because TOS lacks TNG's PC undertones (or overtones). Adult fans of Harry Potter wouldn't dream of touching a proper fantasy series like The Book of the New Sun, despite that series' infinite superiority in every respect. And people who frequent forums like the Forge and story-games.com love to trumpet their preferred games' superiority over more traditional ones.

The way some 1st edition AD&Ders talk about 2nd edition is another example of this phenomenon, I often think. The complaints against 2nd edition (that it got rid of "devils" and "demons"; that it was written for young adolescents rather than adults; that it had a high fantasy tone where 1st edition was sword & sorcery) are primarily attempts to annex coolness to the 1st edition flagpole. In this discourse 1st edition represents some sort of mature, edgy, rebellious game which only True Badasses are brave or foolhardy enough to even touch, whereas 2nd edition is fluffy, inconsequential, childish and anodyne, and the preserve of only the most pathetic of nerds.

I find the whole thing utterly laughable, and whenever I see such arguments advanced I always envisage Tommy Saxondale, the ex-roadie turned pest control expert, standing there in his greying beard and faded leather jacket, waxing lyrical about the time he toured with "the Floyd". These people may think they are true nonconformists screwing The System, but what they usually are are rather drab middle-aged men pining for their lost youths and shaking their fists at a world that has absolutely no place for them.

There is nothing wrong with Raging Against the Dying of the Light - like Voltaire, I will defend to the death a 1st edition AD&D fan's right to enjoy his game of choice, even though I may not like it all that much. (I won't actually defend it to the death, but you know what I mean.) But let's not pretend that there's anything cool about liking 1st edition, or that it makes you more of a badass than those silly 2nd edition nerds. In the final analysis you're a grown man pretending to be an elf. Which, okay, I suppose could be described as edgy, but not in a good way.

21 comments:

  1. There's very little in this world that would qualify for making one person more "objectively badass" than another.

    On the other hand, I DO have a coffee mug, purchased for me by a non-gamer ex-girlfriend that says "Certified Badass." I guess that's MORE of an objective measure...
    : )

    But then, I'm playing B/X these days anyway...

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  2. Come, come, now Noisms, you know very well that in order to play 1E you are required to make your own dice by killing a wild boar bare handed, pulling out it's tusks, and knawing them into dice with your teeth. I did it, my buddys did it, and every kid I teach to play has to do it too.
    Nowadays, I'm getting a bit softer in my old age, and I let them use a spear on the pig. I lose fewer new players that way.

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  3. But let's not pretend that there's anything cool about liking 1st edition, or that it makes you more of a badass than those silly 2nd edition nerds. In the final analysis you're a grown man pretending to be an elf. Which, okay, I suppose could be described as edgy, but not in a good way.

    Thank you.

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  4. Damn straight!

    Everyone knows it's *B/X* that makes you the badass!

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  5. I agree with the basic sentiment -- liking 1st edition over 2nd doesn't make you a better person -- but honestly, does anybody really think that? I've seen people trash 2e, but I can't say I've ever seen someone trash 2e players. And when you strip out the rhetoric, most anti-2e rants say the same thing I said in my blog a while ago: it's not that the 2e system is really worse than or even that different from 1e, it's just that there's no real reason for 2e to exist aside from marketing reasons (purge demons, devils and other potentially objectionable terms to prevent boycotts, make tiny minor changes so that all future products will be incompatible with 1e and will require purchasing new core books.)

    2e isn't the devil incarnate. It's just a giant pile of "meh".

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  6. I've never entirely understood the '1E was more edgy' argument. So you have assassin as a class and a picture of a paladin in hell in the PHB? So you have some references to devils and demons? Big deal. 2E has Planescape and Dark Sun and Ravenloft... far more 'edgier' products (in my opinion) than anything produced for the 1E line.

    Caveat: I don't dislike 1E. I'm actually playing in an OSRIC game right now. I just don't believe its aesthetics are superior to 2nd edition's.

    And like the others said, if you really want to be Billy Badass, play B/X. ;)

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  7. I'm not fond of 2e, and my dislike formed immediately upon buying the 2e PHB the day it came out. This dislike was sealed by my disappointment in the 2e DMG.

    But, it is still D&D, and D&D is an awesome game. I belittle no one who enjoys and plays D&D in any of its forms.

    That said, I have a fondness for D&D of the early 80's that was an amalgam of OD&D and 1st edition. I don't think we made much distinction, despite TSR's misguided attempts at branding D&D and AD&D as different games. If it was a cool supplement or module that was all that mattered.

    But 2e also coincided with my turning 18, and I think many of my generation who where avid fans in the early 80's simply grew up, got careers and found little time to play. Until their 30's when they realized how much they missed playing that great game. Which coincided with the release of 3rd edition, which not only respected the original D&D, but attempted to build upon and improve it. Something I can't say for 4th edition.

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  8. QUOTE, Noisms:

    It's funny how geeks, who really should know better, like to divide themselves into in-groups and out-groups based on their own interests being "cooler" than the others.

    You act as if the Geek Hierarchy does not exist. I question your credentials as one of us, my friend. Every true geek knows, the bottom of the nerd pile is infested with foul, bottom-dwelling misfits: the ones who LARP Vampire. They are the terrible gutter-spawn of our kind. The uncool ones. In a perverse twist of our language, they are the "in-group" that you are referring to. Although in reality, there's nothing "in" about them, except their love of staying in-side.

    The reason why there exists an in-group, tends to be based on the accessibility of the source material. For example, to play Vampire, one needs to have been exposed to Twilight, Anne Rice and have an infatuation with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.

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  9. anonymous has pointed out the central feature of ideas about geek hierarchies:

    "The reason why there exists an in-group, tends to be based on the accessibility of the source material."

    The geek hierarchy is based on the idea:

    "How hard did you have to try in order to find out about _____"

    People who have to try hard to get to the place in their hobby that they are are considered more geeky than people who didn't.

    For a lot of people who grew up at the time when D&D was at the zenith of its popularity (early-mid 80s, pre-2e), you didn't have to seek it out in order to play, it was just what kids did then.

    Therefore, these people think: "I played DnD when the game just fell into your lap, so I can't be accused of having sought out this geeky passtime. It was thrust upon me."

    Whether you agree with that logic is another question.

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  10. Testify, noisms, testify. Yours is a most truthful post this day. It is precisely this factionalism that time and again leaves me wondering why there needs to be such a sharp old/new division.

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  11. JB: Actually I believe "Certified Badass" mugs are the objective decider.

    E. G. Palmer: You let them use a spear? I hope you make them bite off a haft of bamboo and then sharpen it with their own forehead.

    Knightsky: You're welcome!

    JimLotFP: And the real badasses don't even use the 'X', they just play with the 'B'!

    Talysman: You can't argue it didn't tidy up a heck of a lot of the rules.

    But honestly, you want to read some of the threads on Dragonsfoot and Knights and Knaves about 2nd edition - there's an awful lot of bile out there in internet land.

    arcona: Yeah, and anyway Dark Sun characters roll 5d4 for stats. And halflings are cannibalistic. You don't get more badass than that.

    Thomas Denmark: On an unrelated note, I really like your art!

    Anonymous: You have to take as read that people who LARP Vampire are a seperate breed - almost a seperate subspecies of hominid. They're exempt from all attempts at categorisation, or even comprehension.

    Zak: I'm not sure that works, because people who participate in hobbies that are a bone-breaking chore to even start (sky diving, free climbing, alpine orienteering) are probably the least likely to be considered geeks. Or are physical hobbies exempted?

    Rach: Because people like arbitrary divisions, strangely.

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  12. 1st edition does not make you a badass.
    In my experience the most handsome role-players use 1e. Our muscles are sleeker, our tongues sharp and tart and when late night meanderings in a drunken 'ol town take a violent turn familiarity with the DMG elicits effortless acts of heroism.

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  13. I feel the same way about all of the editions. 4e isn't my bag, but the people who play it look like they are having a fine time.

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  14. Another example: I remember being at a Buffy & Angel meetup, where people were being quite snarky about Twilight.

    And in my experience, no one played D&D in the 80s. They played AD&D. Even if they didn't. The shame of a game called 'Basic' was too much.

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  15. "But honestly, you want to read some of the threads on Dragonsfoot and Knights and Knaves about 2nd edition - there's an awful lot of bile out there in internet land."

    Truthfully it's really a small vocal minority of "fatbeards" (God I love that word!) who speak all the smack about 2E being the devil incarnate, and outside of their small circle of sites and followers (the ones you mentioned, noisms) no one really listens to them. I have a theory that most of the more vocal of these don't game anyway, so it's not even an issue with me whether they prefer one game over another. I've learned to tune their ravings out just like the loud commercials that interrupt my sports viewing pleasure on weekends.

    I play 2E and I've converted everyone that's ever gamed with us, whiny 1E worshipping bastard or not, because outside of all the unneccesary fist shaking all gamers just want the same thing, a game, and if you give them a good game they'll play. I've met a few of the loudest "badasses" and when you get them out from behind their computers they are some real sweethearts, truly. This year at the North Texas RPG Con, a gathering designed for OOP and older games, we even had a 3.5 game run. No one ran screaming in the halls of the La Quinta, lighting fires and calling down lightning on the gathering.

    In short: Ignore.

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  16. E. G. Palmer: You let them use a spear? I hope you make them bite off a haft of bamboo and then sharpen it with their own forehead.

    Sharpen it?! What sorta namby-pamby game do you think I run?!

    It's just a blunt stick, and they have to force it into the boar by shear will!

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  17. I still proudly own all of my 1E books. I consider them the core of my gaming collection. But RPGs moved on and quite frankly improved. I didn't much like 2E, but only in retrospect. At the time it was an improvement over 1E in many ways. Then came 3E and I forgot about 1E and 2E. :) Sold off my 2E collection in fact. So I could buy more 3E books...

    And no tabletop role-player is badass.

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  18. Meh. 2E did have the advantage of organization and clarity. Much as Gary's weird style of writing was part of the unique charm of AD&D, his books tended to ramble and jumble together, and occasionally his sentences didn't parse well.

    In practice, I remember doing what (I think) everyone else did around that time: If I wanted to use something that wasn't in 2nd, I just nabbed it from the 1e book. There's barely any difference in the essentials, anyway.

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  19. And no tabletop role-player is badass.
    Says you.
    I actually used to know a couple of marines who played D&D.

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  20. Says you.
    I actually used to know a couple of marines who played D&D.

    That wasn't because they were role-players though. It was because they were willing to die for their country who also happened to be role-players.

    We're nerds dude. Just own it. :)

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