Thursday, January 18, 2007

Trolls & Other Stuff...



So, i'm working on more Troll pictures... using my favorite pen! The Sharpie Extra Fine Point Permanent Marker! Cheap! Easy to find! Nice line & nice amount of ink. I've tried pretty much every pen & marker on the market & this is my personal favorite. I'm in luck too, considering the prices & bother of alot of other pens. Anyhow, i wrote this piece for my friend Clint Marsh's "The Shrieker" Old School Gaming newsletter. It was fun to discuss stuff this nerdy!

So Many Rules… with Sean Goblin

I think I will do us all a favor in the beginning of this piece by warning you that I think rules & bureaucracy are two sins that are missing from the big list of sin. However, I’m also fairly obsessed with the idea of rules & making up rules to force on other people but then breaking them & reminding people that only fools follow the rules. It’s a trap I set for people. In all apparent ways I’m an anarchist, but there are too many rules in anarchism for me to deal with & there is no way I’m going to have some armchair politician or anyone else for that matter telling me how to behave. So, I’ve been re-reading a bunch of old Role Playing Games & after absorbing all the crazy artwork, the central impression I’m getting is that the rule systems are designed by foetal accountants & lawyers. 1st edition AD&D has been the most ludicrous to me so far, although I remember MERP being the most ridiculous rule set I ever bought. I understand that the goal of role playing games is to have a kind of managed make-believe where everything isn’t arbitrary & there are some structures as far as making it a cohesive & semi-realistic environment, but seriously. These rule systems are ridiculous. I find it comforting that the rule systems that made absolutely no sense or were obviously too complicated when I first started reading these books at age 9 are still nonsensical to me at age 30. I find myself thinking, “Who gives a toss?” & “Another chart?” Part of the issue is that good role playing comes from people who have a good understanding of how things actually work & then, how the fantastical would blend or intrude into reality & how to react. If you want to role dice & look at tables & follow the rules, you might as well do some actual gambling, get involved with market investment or become an accountant. There has to be some kind of a psychological problem with these imaginary rule followers. It’s a bit like the difference in intelligence between computers that can beat humans at chess & how even a baby can tell if their mum is mad at them. Math intelligence is more autistic & retarded, while social intelligence is more natural & complex. That said, it takes a large degree of social & intuitive intelligence to understand what “makes sense” in a role playing world, whereas your typical nerd needs the rules explained to them & they need a bunch of charts so that they can decipher what is happening to them in reality.

The times have changed though, the world is held together by a complex web of rules & bureaucracy. These are days of spreadsheets & computer dating, things we should be embarassed by, but have become the way of the West. The accountants are running things & we are the worse off for it. Those of us who like to keep all of the superfluous material small & easy to stomp to death are having a harder time of it. But I can tell that people want the old ways more than ever before. Me, my problem is that i’m a philosopher & a lunatic with an ironclad moral code, so not only do I not need rules, I actively think about them & how they are the wrong rules. With or without the rules, I will behave in the exact same way. I intuitively know right from wrong, I’m a warrior priest leading the tribe by the smells on the winds. Sure, I might keep a bespectacled chart checker on hand so I can make sure no one is stealing the onions, but in the end, I follow my nose & my gut, much like truffle hunting pigs in the wilds of France.

As far as I know, Role Playing Games always seemed like they were aimed at pre-teens, although I have no idea… pre-teens would like to know how the world works, but they also like to masturbate their egos in imaginary blood-baths, treasure rooms & the like. Apparently grown-ass adults like to do this too. The Role Playing Games do best when they are done in the spirit of great story-telling & exploration, not in rule jockeying & accounting. However, the success of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons does explain the success of Scientology & those silly magic how-to books published by Llewelyn, it’s all for cowardly nerds who don’t feel safe in the world unless the rules have been explained to them already. That’s all well & good, the world will always have its share of cowardly nerds & even a few lunatic philosophers as well, but look, you better side with me before it’s too late, the mists are thick, the oceans are rising & the moon is dripping blood.

10 comments:

Noah Berlatsky said...

Villains and Vigilantes was the most preposterous rule system I ever waded into (though there was another called -- Car Wars? -- that was pretty close. The simplest was Toon!, the cartoon role playing game, which was really straightforward and simple.

I think you're a bit hard on people who like this stuff, though (like the adolescent me.) Complicated systems with loads of minutia are fun to interact with. Sports geeks like sports statistics, music geeks like random music minutia, role-playing geeks like role-playing minutia. I don't really see the harm, I guess.

Paleo said...

Sean, you truly work magic...

... you brought empathy out of Noah!



and i love those trolls, hey, have you thought of writing & illustrating ( with extended, detailed, thought controlling rules ) a role playing game that will get people to behave like you want 'em to?

It started as a nerd conspiracy to total control...

And they won!

aeron said...

I really like this medieval fantasy drawing style you've been pushing lately. I'd love to see you do an illustrated fairy tale with this style, do you have plans to do anything like that? Seriously, some 20 colored drawings like this and a simple weird fairy tale included with it and I'm sure you could find someone to publish it for you.

I downloaded a ridiculously large collection (20-30 gigs) of Dungeons and Dragons books last year that's full of great artwork, I'll have to crop out some of the good stuff and post it online sometime, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Goblinko said...

Ha ha Noah! It's funny, because after i typed the bit about a bespectacled chart checker accompanying me, i realized that is my wife! Anyhow, i suppose it's because i really don't relate in any way, shape or form to statistics & numbers & feel like the world has been taken over by those sorts of things. I absolutely believe that it's a natural brain type for humans & isn't going to go away, i'm more interested in putting it in its place!

David, Yes indeedy. I'm working on such a role playing system as we speak! It's called "Swords & Sausages". Ha ha. FOr real though, i'll keep everyone posted.

Aeron, yes, i've always wanted to illustrate folklore books & modify the old stories to be a little more messed up. It's a big project that i'm kind of working up to i suppose. I know that once i get started i don't think i'm going to be able to stop such a project. It'd be cool to see what D&D illustrations you're talking about.

aeron said...

Here's a pic of one of the covers..

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v127/deformity/dund.jpg

Luke P. said...

I love this stuff. I never played RPGs, but kind of wish I had.
Only problem was, all the kids who played them were really hard to socialize with; it really was more about numbers and points for these kids, rather than the imaginative/story aspect that appealed to me.
As much as I want to defend nerds, do you guys actually remember what these kids were like? Hanging out with them was tortuous.

aeron said...

I've actually never played these games, the closest being Zork when I was a kid. I don't think that counts though. I've just always been mesmerized by the weird artwork with strange monsters and dungeon spaces, always been a fun place for my imagnation to run loose in. There was a comic shop in Lafayette Indiana called Castle that I used to frequent that is run by this asian family. My brother was friends with their son who helped run the place and everyone kind of hung out there for awhile. Anyway, they had this large back room with tables where there was always a large group of goofy guys playing various rpg related games. I never associated with any of them though so I can't really say what they were like. But every time I'd go in there to pick up comics or look around I always felt kind of awkward around em. But that's probably about the same as not being a basketball fan and walking around the court hearing people go off about scores that I have no idea about.

Goblinko said...

Luke, you live in St. Paul right? Here's the thing, in the San Francisco Bay Area, there have been a larger number of nerds for a long time. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but i think all of the colleges plus computer stuff have alot to do with it. Also, some hippies are usually quite nerdy. Anyhow, there are alot of nerds there & it just got worse & worse with the dot com explosion & i think you could call Burning Man an alternerd gathering. Anyhow, the point is, there are so many fucking nerds there, it's impossible to talk about anything without some goddamn nerd chiming in just to make sure that you know that they know something about what you're talking about. It's not about adding anything to the conversation but it's more about just being the kid with their hand up in class for every question & everyone in the class hating them. It's cool to be smart, it's cool to know stuff, but it's not cool to be a nerd. period!

aeron said...

There's a sportsbar in Chicago that's owned by the guy who played "Oger" in Revenge of the Nerds. I always want to go in there with some other people dressed like the nerds from that movie and see if he'll start some shit!

zeke said...

Great drawing sean! I especially like the swirling cloudy miasma in the back.