Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Know You Meant Well But Circumstances Force Me To Regulate On You

Warning: this will be boring and stupid. I hate the internet for making me do it. I will try never to do this again. As readers, I ask that you please never force me to do this again.

EDIT: The folks who did this (Judd, etc.) have since apologized and recorded a disclaimer onto the beginning of their show. Like I said way at the beginning, they meant well. They just made some mistakes. They've admitted them.

I'm leaving this post up because it clarifies why that disclaimer is up there.

To The People Who Did This About This:

First, thanks for noticing, thanks for reading sort-of carefully and kind-of having respect for it, and thanks for telling me about it.

Second, we all know that people are way better at listening to podcasts than reading, so your misinterpretation of what I said will get way more attention than what I actually wrote and so it's already over and you win and I lose (especially with your target audience), but, just for shits and giggles, let's fact-check your show:

-To Judd--I am not "lumping lot of different indie RPGs together". In the post I write very specifically about a certain kind of indie RPG. Thus the phrases: "The more interesting indie RPGs I've seen" and "the most interesting and original indie rpgs I've seen" "A lot of the innovative new games". Also note, I only talk about games I've seen. Re-read the post. That was not a post about all indie games, it was about the kinds of player-generated-content-heavy indie games I find interesting.

-To Judd-- I never said my players "don't want to make up worlds", I said they are moody and they sometimes want to do x and sometimes want to do y--and they often change their tack 7 or 8 times in 7 or 8 minutes. It is not the desire to tell the story that they lack, it's the desire to tell the story in the same way for three hours straight. You seem to have missed the main point of my post, which was that D&D supports multiple play styles simultaneously.

-To Judd--I have no interest in the "comfort" of having a few simple choices or a pre-generated premise. I have an interest in investing creativity in character creation (if I feel like it) or in strategy (if I feel like that instead) or in world-building (if I feel like that) or in role-playing (if I feel like that). I am not into D&D because it is limiting, I'm into it because if I choose to neglect one aspect of RPGing, the game swells to fill the gap, leaving me free to concentrate my energy wherever I want.

-All three of you seem to think I'm looking around for a new game and am frustrated that I can't find an indie RPG that I can play. That's not what I say. Here's what I actually say about the 2 games I mention "That sounds fun, I'd play that." Not "I'm dying to play a different game in addition to the one I'm already playing, but I just can't find one because of all my misconceptions."

-The notion that players don't "tell the story" in D&D is unique to people who don't have fun playing D&D. D&D and other traditional RPGs divide the storytelling and creativity duties in complex and interesting ways that all game designers would do well to study. For example: without creative problem solving and thinking up shit the DM didn't, you will die in any game I run.

-We don't play 4e. We also don't play a mishmash of 1 and 2e. If you want to know the rules we play with you can look around on the blog.

-Also, two minor gripes:

-As someone (sort of) points out on the show: nowhere do I suggest that my players couldn't intellectually handle the rules of the kinds of games I discuss, merely that they don't necessarily want to place their creative effort where a given game asks them to place it.

-Also, as someone points out on the show: when I say that the games in question "lower the creativity ante" for the publisher, I do indeed mean simply in the design of the setting. I know creating a game requires creativity. Yeah, despite your stated fear of taking things out of context, you totally did take it out of context.

To The Canon Puncture Guys And Several Other People In The Blogosphere Who Meant Well, I'm Sure, So Shall Remain Nameless:

Ever go to a restaurant with your grandparents and they keep saying "You could have ravioli, you like ravioli, right? Oh, and they have cheeseburgers here--want a cheeseburger?".

Remember how annoying that was?

But that was ok, they weren't being condescending, because they were too senile to remember that you already learned to read.

RPG bloggers, on the other hand, have no excuse. Please stop recommending that I, in my benighted ignorance, "should try" games everyone and their blind, deaf, incarcerated aunt has already heard of and has read all about on the web. I'm an adult, I can read the menu myself, I blog about RPGs every day, I know about Mouse Guard and Dogs In The Fucking Vineyard and Rolemaster and whatever game you think I will enjoy more than D&D. I have google, too.

Plus I'm having an awful lot of fun playing the game I happen to be playing now and am pretty busy what with playing that game, running a TV show about it, plus having a job and a life. When I say "Hey, I have no idea what to do today, someone recommend me a new game" THEN you can tell me all about how I "should try" whatever your favorite game is.

To Arnold, The Guy In The Comments Section Under The Canon Puncture Podcast, The Guy Who Said These Things About Me:

[Edit--I've removed this part of the post because "Arnold"'s comments have been removed from the page. Pretty much because and only because I wrote this.]

To All Other Indie Gamers:

I will do you the favor of assuming Arnold doesn't represent you.

To All Other Indie Gamers Who Read The Comments Under The Canon Puncture Podcast And Didn't Immediately Call Arnold Out On His Condescending Lunacy and Bar Him From Commenting Ever Again:

I will do you the favor of assuming there was an earthquake or tsunami wherever you live or your wife was giving birth and so that prevented you from doing that.

To Anyone Dumb

This is not an "indie gamer vs. old school thing", this is a "Zak vs. Some Guys Who Didn't Read Something Zak Wrote Very Closely" thing. It has no greater meaning and should not be interpreted as an excuse to start arguing some more.


  1. What's all this about a TV show? Is it just a one-off thing, or a weekly series I should be watching right now because it is almost certainly awesome?

    Sorry if you detailed this before, but my searches didn't turn anything up.

  2. I just wanted to point out that "collaborative nad" is perhaps the best typo in the history of blogging.

  3. signed the contracts yesterday. details when I get a minute.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Sorry--typos needed to be corrected:

    I feel like an important element of this discussion is being left out: some people have certain kinds of "shyness" that leads to their hesitancy or unwillingness to play certain kinds of games.

    Personally, despite the fact that I have no problem at all being naked and performing sex acts for all to see on film and online--I seriously feel exposed and vulnerable when it's my intellectual assets on display.

    Essentially I'm insecure (and I value those personal intellectual parts of myself more than my boobies for example) and until I develop more confidence I won't enjoy exploring a different kind of gaming--one that would put "me" on the spot--than the one I really enjoy and feel capable of now.

    Zak actually says this in his original post.

  6. I can certainly understand that kind of shyness, Mandy. One of the reasons I'm more into online play than the tabletop stuff is because I have similar issues with stepping into the shoes of my character in the classic way of playing.

    Sorry if I've accidently stepped over any boundaries just now or insulted anyone or somesuch.

  7. Man, it's supposed to be a fucking game. I don't care if it's more or less accurate/realistic/sumulationist/narratively experiemental or what have you. If it ain't fun, I ain't playing it.

    It's also supposed to be a social game and if your social group don't like it then you either have to find another group or deal with that.

    Well said Zak - I haven't listened to the podcast but I read the comments. I don't find being condescended to and told what my fun should look like entertaining either.

  8. You got a work in the MoMA? Damn.

    As someone who has made something of a philosophical conversion from (vicarious enjoyment of) Indie to OSR I can understand the sigle-minded fervour with which our friend Arnold resonates. Of course the Gygarnesonian paradigm is a barrier to a more immersive narratoludic experience.

    I can empathise with Mandy and with Jason. I'd feel just a little gimpy with indie games. I haven't played anything at all in ten years due to a fairly aspie personality.

  9. Hi, long time lurker, first time writing, etc.

    I feel compelled to break my silence by saying: "Zak I officially want to be you" because, you know, my own list of things-I-get-to-do-that-I-like is pretty much the same than yours... except that it's called "things-I'd-like-to-get-to-do" :P

    On a more serious matter, I totally agree with your point; life is full of people who just won't accept that you enjoy the things that you do, whether we're talking about RPGs, food, sex or whatever. To try to balance this, I'll say that, even if I haven't said anythig till now, I've found a good deal of fun and inspiration from this blog. So... thank you very much.


    P.S: I still want to be you XD

  10. Hmmm. Apologies for any offense, Zak...I wasn"t trying to pitch a system to you.
    You probably have enough stressors going on, so I'll say my bit and then shut up thereafter, unless prompted.
    It may be to your advantage to establish some kind of FAQ post to punt folks towards concerning well, everything you don't want to be asked about, over and over. If the show takes off, a lot more people may be showing up here, and adding their two cents and their non-sense, A lot of people would probably help you.

  11. @Mandy - My players express a similar sentiment (in regard to gaming..don't know their attitude on on-camera or online sex acts), so I would imagine that sort of reticence is widespread.

    In general, I found Zak's original post to make a really good point, though I guess half-assed reads and rallying against strawmen is one of the reasons for the internet.

  12. More often than not, people don't really read what you write, they read what they want you to have written.

  13. "To All Other Indie Gamers: I will do you the favor of assuming Arnold doesn't represent you."


  14. You mean "look like" as in A) you clicked on their pictures or "look like" as in, B) they actually have admitted to playing emo vampire RPGs?

  15. More often than not, people don't really read what you write, they read what they want you to have written.

    +1, as the young'uns say.

    I know I shouldn't say this, Zak, because I'm sure this is all very annoying to you right now, but I'm glad to know I'm not the only blogger who regularly gets misread and misunderstood.

  16. 'Tis a small price to pay for the privilege of having hordes of unthinking slaves who dance like dynamited dogs to every note of our despotic and arbitrary tunes, eh neighbor?

    We will ride on a road of bones.

  17. @Zak: Okay, since no one else has asked this, what's the painting called that you have on display in the Museum of Modern Art? And what are the titles of some of these books that are on shelves wherever fine literature is sold? Maybe there is some incredibly obvious way for me to find out the titles, but that hasn't occurred to me. And thank you for a well written and extremely entertaining blog.

  18. Apart from liking the whole thing, I just wanted to spotlight this bit in particular:

    I know about Mouse Guard and Dogs In The Fucking Vineyard and Rolemaster and whatever game you think I will enjoy more than D&D. I have google, too.


    It's great that gamers like to share their favorite RPGs with each other, but man can it get irritating after a while. One of the main reasons I don't read the forums anymore.

  19. apparently I have google, and sirlarkins has google, but artrx doesn't.

  20. You mean "look like" as in A) you clicked on their pictures or "look like" as in, B) they actually have admitted to playing emo vampire RPGs?

    I've certainly played emo vampire RPGs. Well, not so much the vampire aspect.

    But I can say "face-stabby, weeping emo misery-tourism play" and some people in the indie games community will know what I'm talking about, and then we'll have a conversation about that play style.

  21. Joe--
    If my life were an indie RPG then you'd notice my Open-Mindedness And Desire Not To Employ The Meaningless Sociological Abstractions That This Blog Is, In Itself, A Rejection-Of stat rolling against my Contempt For All Things Emo stat.

  22. It's odd that a podcast episode that was clearly very respectful of the Blog, the players and your point of view would end in flames rather than discussion and clarity about any missinterpretations. They may not have understood accurately, but they clearly weren't being condescending and praised the blog for its lack of identity politics, which seems the height of irony now.

  23. Like i said, I know they meant well. But it's possible to be condescending without realizing it.

    Emo joke aside, there's still no identity politics here.

    However: If they will agree to take down the podcast or issue a retraction or otherwise admit they fucked up, I'll take down this whole post and pretend it never happened.

  24. I would've just told them that, but my comments are "still awaiting moderation".

  25. Why not just have a friendly chat?

  26. They don't answer when I write to them. Get it?

    If they write back, then all this goes away immediately.

  27. Cool. I'm sure they'll respond when they see the message.

  28. Damn, Zak. I'm sorry about all of this. I'm listening to the podcast now and I think the whole thing is freaking weird.


  29. "For example: without creative problem solving and thinking up shit the DM didn't, you will die in any game I run."

    That's not the impression that I get from your actual play descriptions with the ladies. They seem more goofy and tropish (but fun, which is what counts). Hence the new show is named "I Hit It With My Axe" rather than "Lateral Thinking for Victory!".

    @Mandy: I'm curious how close to your comfort boundaries these examples would be:

    Fleshing out the temp:

    Hardships in the swamp:

    Those are small-scale player improvisations in a DnD 4e game.

  30. Guess maybe you missed something then, didn't you, Derek?

  31. Dear Zak and Mandy,
    ... I love the heck out of you guys. Go get'm tigers
    Ya'll make me so happy.

    "F' the bitches!"


    I just love the way you let them have it. I honestly think they're just jealous of you. Seriously, I'm sure tons of people are hitting themselves in the forehead wondering why they didn't think of your ideas first.
    Maybe they had Satine-itis. You know.. Its like dyslexia except you only pieces of the sentence and then rearrange them to your personal need.


  32. I don't think they had any kind of wicked motive.

    You're right--it was pretty much the same thing that made you read "Gnomes get + 1 to attack rolls vs. goblins and kobolds" as "Gnomes get +1 to attack rolls".

  33. Zak,

    Thanks for listening to the Canon Puncture Show and giving us your feedback. As you said above, it looks like we misunderstood what you meant in your post "How Much Do You Want To Be A Wizard?"

    We'd love to have you on the show to chat about it. We quite like your blog and your point-of-view.

    Rich Rogers
    Canon Puncture Show

  34. ok, orklord, email me

    zakzsmith at hot mail

  35. Hmm, I thought the original post was one of the few cogent explanations I've ever read explaining reasons why people don't automatically uptake indie games.

    I've had the same kind of problem. A lot of indie games kinda take the approach of "here's a cool idea - run with it!" But they essentially put a large amount of work on someone else in the process. "Perhaps you could add a little more explanation about what everyday life looks like in your high concept setting?" Most of them are basically built to be an entertaining one-shot, and it can be hard getting people to commit to actually learning a new system and new author's grand vision for a one shot.