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.