Friday, 24 February 2017

The End of an Era

I have decided never to visit ever again. I have felt for a long time that the site has fallen prey to Bill Hicks' "fevered egos tainting our collective subconscious" - a coterie of very strange and miserable people with cripplingly low self-esteem, hell-bent on making life as awkward for everybody else as it is for them. (You don't have to be Carl Jung to notice there is something really weird and deep going on in the group psychology of that place; the spectacle of Trouble Tickets, with its mean-spirited sycophants egging on the mods to ever greater feats of arbitrary banning, is frankly just fucking bizarre.) The site is a case study in how control of speech leads almost in a straight line, as in A to B, to control of all other aspects of behaviour, and I'm not going to have any truck with that. 

I was happy to leave it at that, and have barely visited the site in the last, say, 2 years, except to see if anybody is talking about Yoon-Suin on it. (We all have our vanities.) But recent events, which you are probably aware of, made me feel that I had to be definitive and make a clean break. (If you don't know what those recent events are, consider yourself lucky and move on.)

This is a great shame. That forum was important to me once. I devoted a really quite stupidly inordinate amount of time to reviewing every monster in the AD&D 2nd edition Monstrous Manual there, but I loved every minute of it, and I look back on the days when I was writing those posts with great pride. The thread stands, I think, as an everlasting proof-of-concept of what feats of imagination a group of nerds can achieve together when they put their minds to it. There were some brilliantly imaginative people posting on that thread, and it created a virtuous circle of ever-greater feats of creativity. 

Indeed, I probably have to say that those years, around 2008-2009, were formatively important to me. Reading some of the posts on my thread, and posts elsewhere, taught me quite a lot about what the human imagination could do in community with other human imaginations. Not to make huge overstatements, but it was a genuine inspiration to me. There was a power in it. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't have started the blog, wouldn't have got involved in online discussion of RPGs at all really, and in that sense wouldn't have any access to what is now quite a major outlet for my own creativity. I suspect I'd be doing something else instead, but still - was responsible for setting me off down a path which has added a lot of enjoyment to my life. 

So here's to you, You may be shit now. But once, you were all right. 


  1. RPG messageboards, in general, aren't what they used to be. Or maybe we're a little older and have less patience/time to put up with the constant tug-of-war between board moderators and the trolls. Or watching our threads degenerate into an argument even though we had not such intent.

    On a more positive note:
    A couple years back, I "stupidly" read every page in the "Let's Read AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual." I thoroughly enjoyed it and even made notes. It's a treasure trove of ideas. So thanks for archiving the thread for others to read an enjoy.

    Though I wonder whatever happened to PETA girl... ;)

    1. I think that thread would probably nowadays have been banned for group attacks on the basis of PETA girl...

      Glad you liked the thread. It is a treasure trove but mostly thanks to other posters on it - I wish I knew who "Sleeper" was.

    2. Stelios, you are right about the forums. Discussion of RPGs has become really dispersed and increasingly tribal. Maybe this is an unavoidable consequence of having an ever growing backlog of past discussions and controversies that have crystalised into a kind of case law. Still, it's sad how in the face of so many great new games and developments we seem to have less and less free and productive discussion about them.

  2. That MM thread over there is what originally lead me to the OSR. Its so sad what the place has become.

  3. Well, there was this:

    "Re: Re: Misery Masturbation, Tangency, and you."

    "When did Tangency turn into this?
    Every single day, there's some new atrocity posted.
    And every single thread is the same. Either somebody Skarka's the central premise and gets dogpiled, or everybody basically says "Man. That's terrible. I hate this country."
    People like to share misery, so that they're not the only person who knows about the little puppy who got set on fire and then raped.
    But it's getting fucking ludicrous in here. Every single atrocity known to mankind must be brought to Tangency's attention so that we all know that clubbing kittens is bad.
    I mean, really, this is just misery masturbation. I don't mind a discussion of issues, but there's never any discussion - just everybody posting "That's so very awful.""


    "If you wanted me to paint an approximate picture of what I imagine these threads look like, imagine a bunch of naked, pale humanoids sitting in a concrete room. At irregular intervals, somebody flashes an image on the far wall of something horrible, and the humanoids all moan desparingly and wish that they were dead, occasionally pausing to flap their hands against another humanoid's shoulder in an attempt to comfort them or to join in an apathetic trampling of one of their number who decided that maybe the image wasn't so bad after all. There's always Joy Division playing in the background, just to top off the misery quotient.

    I realize that it's been a tough eight years what with Bush, but Jesus."


    That's Darren MacLennan from way back in 2007, in two very prophetic posts. Yes, the same guy who will not think twice today about banning someone for wrongthink, RPGNet's own little O'Brien. If you hit him up, I bet he still has subversive literature in his stash.

    Anyway, I still read the obituaries^H^H^H^H^H^H^H infractions; it's kinda fun to observe how fucked up things can get. But the rest of the place is mostly empty: most of the people I liked reading there - people with considered and often loudly stated opinions - have been banned, left, or just stay silent.

    Looking back, RPGNet seems to be a microcosm of a larger thing, a social experiment before the rollout of the New Internet. It is an unusually long-lived site which has been around since 1996, and where you can see the whole development arc of how things have changed from a free and unregulated wild west kind of place to a controlled environment where people will go after your private life and job for the wrong kind of opinions.

    1. Interesting. Yeah, the internet has morphed into something that I really increasingly find quite terrifying. Toyama writes about how technology mostly just amplifies existing human tendencies. Since humans are really good at getting themselves into in-groups and out-groups, and care hugely about reputation, and readily convince themselves that people who think differently to them are EVIL, the internet is resulting in those tendencies becoming amplified.

  4. Over fifteen years ago I recoiled in horror from online forums. This madness is too easily lost in.
    Like Dan, that Monster Manual post is one of the things (if not the thing) that attracted my attention, and the "virtuous circle" you talk about is exactly why I am here and will remain.

  5. ==those years, around 2008-2009

    I honestly think there was a higher calibre of gamer, or person, around back then, the initial interest around Gygax's death, and I also believe sensible grounded people with healthy lives weary of the osr scene after one or two years and vanish leaving behind march-hares and addicts.

    ==melan==you can see the whole development arc of how things have changed from a free and unregulated wild west kind of place to a controlled environment where people will go after your private life and job for the wrong kind of opinions

    Yes. A largely undiagnosed cause of faction splintering on the web talk-o-sphere is that half of the population (not just online) is utterly humourless and chooses to respond to initially mild jibing and unusual opinions with puritanical virtue signalling. A JOKE, which is often a civilised form of protest designed to ease tension, is misconstrued by the psychotically humourless as a SIN. That kind of wooden moral response to humour serves to identify the finger-pointing zealot as a clearly justifiable target for much more serious mockery. And so on back and forth.

  6. I go there frequently, but I only read a handful of threads. Which is why, I guess, it's still a decent place for me. I never bother with the cesspool threads.

  7. This is the giant thread that is referred to in the post and it is interesting to see the degree of contempt Zak Smith is held in in wider circles than the osr. Those who support him tend to be people who benefit financially from kissing his arse because he recommends their stuff. Personally I have found him a cowardly narcissist and a ratbag from day one.

    1. Kent, this blog is not going to turn into The Kent Club. The comments here are not your soap box.

  8. I basically left RPGnet in 05. It was getting so absurd I finally paid 10 bucks to post at Something Awful. Even in 05 the place was a pile of groupthink and proto Tumblr/SJWs who were so bad to make one almost want to start watching Fox News. (Almost. Not wanting to hate basic human decency and empathy made me run away. My few times back have just reminded me why I left. And it honestly seems pretty dead now.) But honestly from all I have seen RPG discussion on any forum seems to be a path to misery and suffering. It is more toxic than even politics and religion just about and I can't figure out exactly WHY. At least 1d4 Chan Wiki is there for FUN reading about games? (Tabletop Gaming News is 90% KICKSTARTER by Volume and is thus irrelevant. Bell of Lost Souls switches KS for kissing Games Workshop's ass.) And no RPGnet's mirror by that crazy Pipe Guy from Uruguay isn't better. Its just terrible with slightly more freedom and the opposite political side last time I checked. With more support towards people who need to be kept a kilometer away from most schools.. O_o

  9. I noticed years ago that, in's D20/D&D subforum, if you ask for a creative contribution ('hey let's imagine a city together!') the group is useless, but everyone's always up for a round of pissing on someone else's creative work. It's not really an RPG forum, it's a place (a 'safe space') for RPG 'fans,' ex-fans, and *collectors* to be upset together.

    The collector mentality, and the status games that go along with it, ruin every fandom near as I can tell.

  10. All this said, the D&D subreddit is quite useful, though it skews young.