Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Evil Mastermind from grognards.txt

Come out and play.

I'm "fascinating" to you?

Come over to the comments. We will have a conversation.


I'm serious.

We'll talk about games and what-all.

That's what we do here, after all.

I mean, if you want to just have this all be one way: I say something, you quietly mull it over in the corner that's fine, but I think we would all have some fun if we had a conversation about how games get talked about on the internet.

I promise not to bite.


Listen: you can complain about how things work or you can try to fix them.

I am right here, asking you how we can fix them.


there's somebody saying "Hey why don't we do this via email and then put it on the net"

totally cool with me. you can email me.

I just don't know any other way to contact you.

And why you?

You seem like a decent person, altogether. Maybe.



OtspIII said...

I've got to say, starting off a conversation on how games get talked about on the internet by telling someone to switch the conversation over onto your personal gameblog is a pretty rough first step. This is really something you yourself should take to grognards.txt.

I guess you probably don't have a SA account?

Zak Sabbath said...


No offense but if I did, I'd obviously not be doing this.

Sean D said...

...uh, okay...not entirely sure why you "called me out", though.

Zak Sabbath said...



Hold on a sec--Mandy just got home and is telling me stuff. I will get back to this in a sec.

OtspIII said...

Want one? Grognards.txt is at its best the more voices that are active in it, and you're directly responsible for me finding my current group, so I'm totally down for getting you one if you give me an email to send the info to.

Zak Sabbath said...

zakzsmith at hawt mayle dawt calm

OtspIII said...

Alright, info should be sent. Let me know if you didn't get anything.

Zak Sabbath said...



So here's what I feel like we got here:

-A game.

-A bunch of people who want to play the game one way. (Group A)

-A bunch who want to play a different way. (Group B)

-A bunch of people who will pretty much play any way. (Group C)

Within A, B , and C we also have a bunch of dickheads (A2, B2, C2, etc) who whale on each other all day in forums.

Like, group B2 (dickheads who want to play game in way #2) mostly just complain about what other dickheads say.

- seek out the most extreme examples of what someone who isn't some not-them group says and whale on them for it--and often make the mistake of mistaking the part for the whole.
-confuse the extremists with the whole group.

Is this how you see all this edition war crap or do you see it another way?

Sean D said...

I honestly see "edition waring" as a bunch of bad apples who seem to have nothing better to do than draw metaphorical lines in the sand over which playstyle is better and truer to "Gary's Legacy" so they can be Right. And frankly, I believe that those types deserve nothing but mockery because they're trying to feel superior about pretending to be an elf. Believe me, I'd love for edition or playstyle "warriors" to just shut up and leave everyone else alone to enjoy themselves, but I know there's no way in hell that's going to happen. I have to laugh at them, otherwise I start screaming.

Honestly? I don't give a shit which edition you play as long as you're enjoying yourself; I've played every edition and still have a OD&D Rules Cyclopedia. I play traditional games, indie games, and story games; they're all good. It's just when it turns into outright lies about game X versus game Y, or power-tripping GMs, or people who bring their inappropriate sexual stuff to the table that I, personally, have a problem.

Zak Sabbath said...

I feel like I agree with everything you just wrote. None of it sounds controversial to me.

However, to be clear, so I can move on:

Is there anything I wrote up there at Feb 29, 2012 05:53 PM that you disagree with?

Sean D said...

Well, I think you divvied up the groups too much. To me, its:

A: People who play games and enjoy them, and are overall decent people
B: People who have to turn gaming into some bizarre "I'm better than you" thing, with a side of misogyny, or racism, or "if I rape the paladin does she fall" or other terrible shit.

Group B is the smaller of the two, but they're also the loudest to the point where they make it harder for group A to enjoy themselves.

Zak Sabbath said...

Ok, fair enough.

I also think this:

Because of the noise made by your Group B people, there is a lot of hostility and cliquishness that doesn't need to be there that spills over and makes it hard for reasonable people to have interesting, useful conversations about games because there are all these people acting like fuckheads.

Would you agree with that?

Sean D said...

Not really. I've had some of the best, most interesting conversations about gaming come out grognards.txt.

Ignoring the group B people is damn near impossible because they're everywhere, and once you know they're there you see them all over the place offline and on. I mock them because it's the only sane response to someone making a paladin fall because said paladin broke down a door to save people in a burning building because that's "breaking in", or someone acting like there's an actual conspiracy out to destroy "traditional gaming", or asks with a straight face how many spiders can fit in a drow's vagina.

And yes, those are all things that happened. These are the group B people.

I have to share the hobby with those guys. That doesn't mean I have to like or respect them.

OtspIII said...

In relation to grognards.txt, I think there is a little bit of the "finding the worst examples from a wide variety of People Not Like Us and attributing it to a single monolithic entity" problem going on, but it's mostly hyperbole and venting, and isn't nearly as bad as it might look from outside.

I think a possibly more core issue is that when people discuss the problems between editions there are tons of people from A/B/C1 who will trot out certain half-baked talking points when discussing the good and bad points of various editions, but who haven't really thought about the topic enough to back up those talking points with more insightful analysis. 4e being like a video game or WoW is a good example: there are a bunch of actual interesting points you can discuss that are similar to that point. For example, does feeling like the game has explicit expectations as to what type of treasure/equipment you should be using at any given level somehow make the players feel like they have less agency? If so, is the answer just to obfuscate the expectations (which I feel like is what most previous editions of D&D more or less did) or to remove them entirely?

The problem is that when someone says "4e sucks because it's basically just tabletop WoW" it has a bad habit of being an unanalyzed statement being thrown down more in an attempt to end conversation than to start it, where the person saying it is more repeating statements they've heard than actually sharing any of their own insights, and so can't really turn the statement into a conversation. Hearing this non-argument repeated thousands of times, even by otherwise type-1 people, has made grognards.txt posters super-irritable about lots of even fairly non-awful-person 4e criticisms.

Zak Sabbath said...


I am not talking about Grognards.txt. I don't think any _entire forum_ is worth talking about since it;s full of people.

Please register that you understand that I am not talking about grognards.txt and we can move on.

If you think I covertly am for some reason, then say that.

Sean D said...

Okay then. I do get the impression that you're trying to bait me into saying something here.

If you're not, then I'm sorry for getting that impression.

Zak Sabbath said...

Ok, listen,

I'm really not.

Mostly grognards.txt is kinda just a wordwall that doesn't have any particular valence to me and refers to a lot of things I don't read--like I don't take its existence as an insult or anything. It's just another game forum to me, it just so happens that you are there and you say stuff so that's where I found you.

I don't have some delusion that I am going to stop the forum from existing or make everyone nice to everyone. I want to talk to you about specific things that you said and I want to start on a foundation of things we can agree about before we move on to what (if anything) we disagree about.

Is that ok? Can we do that?

Sean D said...

Uh, sure?

I guess I'm just still confused about why I got called out out of everybody.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Sean D

you got called out of everybody because you said something that:

-I understood,
-seemed like you were speaking honestly, not hyperbolically, and
-was about me

Plus you seem like a basically reasonable person.

Do you understand me and believe me?

Sean D said...

Okay, fair enough then.

Zak Sabbath said...

Now, you have said (and I believe you) that you have had useful conversations with people on Grognards.txt about games.

I would like to have useful conversations with anyone there who is cool about games. Especially because a lot of them seem interested in 4e and I play 4e. Also, anybody else on the internet who plays 4e and wants to talk about how games are constructed and can be GMed.

Do you believe me when I say that?

Sean D said...

Why wouldn't I?

Zak Sabbath said...

I have often found that when people say or do something on the internet, their motive is presumed to be something other than what it actually is.

Anyway, do you believe me when I say what I said up at Feb 29, 2012 07:13 PM?

Sean D said...

Yes I do.

Zak Sabbath said...


So speaking as someone interested in talking about games it's frustrating to know you are pissing people off but not know why. Because that means you can't change your behavior and bring them into the conversation and know more stuff about games and be smarter.

Does it make sense to you that I could be pissing people off and not know why?

Does it make sense to you that--if my motive is to talk to lots of people about games--I would want to try to fix this?

Sean D said...

Okay, yes I get where you're coming from.

Zak Sabbath said...

2 part thing here:

So, I have noticed a phenomenon:

People who play the same games as me in roughly the same way (like, say Jeff Rients and noisms) tend to not take statements I make and get pissed about them--even when we disagree. They tend to ask questions when we disagree and we have a conversation about that until we figure out where and why we disagree and whether it matters and we all get smarter because we had a conversation about games.

People who--I assume--don't play games the same way I do assume the worst when they see something I wrote and get rrrrrreal mad at me and generally _do not_ come to me with questions when we have a disagreement and tend to just assume I am a jerk and not have a conversation about it and slink off and complain to third parties.

I have observed this phenomenon--you can say that you have or say you haven't.


Assuming this phenomenon exists, I think there are 4 plausible explanations:

A-Me and people who play like me have a shared language and a shared set of assumptions and so we don't realize we are accidentally saying INCREDIBLY OFFENSIVE things from the point of view of people who roll in a different way.

B-These different playstyle divisions result in sort of separate social cliques and these social cliques are simply suspicious of one another and don't assume good faith when having conversations with people from other cliques.

C-A little of both A and B.

D-I am evil and seek to destroy people who pretend to be elves in ways I do not, and these people know it.

So, are you with me on the existence of Observed Phenomenon 1?

And do you have any ideas as to the nature of Attempts To Explain it A, B, C, and/or D ?

Sean D said...

Part 1: Yes, I've observed that, although not with the people you mention (I don't know who they are). I think the main reason is that experience has taught most of us that gamers do NOT like to be disagreed with. You see it at pretty much every forum: RPGNet, RPGSte, ENWorld, SA, etc. I think a large part of it is that we all get so used to being attacked over stupid shit most people start to assume everything is an attack of one sort or another, with a side dose of "My way is the One True Way"-ism.

Part 2: It's the combination of A and B, with a big leaning towards B. Forum and group cultures count for a lot; what's kosher for your group may or may not be kosher for me; I'll be honest, I'd probably be uncomfortable playing in your group. That's not a critisism, it's just a difference of "culture". Things just get heated when a person brings the expectations of their culture into a different one and neither side wants to back down because it's a "sign of weakness" or some shit.

Zak Sabbath said...


Ok, awesome, now we're getting somewhere.

Now I can't do anything about B (not quickly anyway) but I think A is something I can work on and, via working on A, we can slowwwwwwly make B less of an issue.

Here's an example (I think) of A:

"Player skill vs, Character skill"

To me and to people who post in the comments on this blog, this is a totally normal phrase to use. No-one gets pissed off. It doesn't seem like an insult to us--even to those of use who play 4e or whatever.

Yet I realized after talking to people in other universes of gaming, this phrase pisses off/triggers/is-highly-debatable to a lot of people who don't come around here.

I don't want to piss them off. It achieves nothing. And if it pisses them off, it may be that there are good _reasons_ it pisses them off that the rest of us don't realize because rather than having a conversation about the phrase they just don't come over and talk about it. And (in some cases) complain that it's being used.

So, basically, I don't say that anymore. I realize it pisses people off and to some degree I realize (now) why. I'm done with it--at least the way I used to assume it was ok to use it.

So anyway: I want to know about other things like that--words, phrases, ideas, ways of talking that piss people off and make them retreat to their own corners and--basically--get in the way of real conversations about games.

Is that ok with you and can I ask you some things about it?

Sean D said...

Okay, speaking as someone who doesn't like the "Player Skill" idea, I'm going to poorly explain why:

The problem with the phrase is that it comes with a lot of assumptions; that success or failure lays with the capabilities of the player, not the character.

Let me put it this way: I, Sean D, do not know how to delve a dungeon, pick a lock, fire a gun, or hack the Gibson. However, my character does.

So if my dungeoneer trips a trap because I (Sean) didn't think to do something preventative that somone who lives in this setting who delves for a living WOULD know to do, then that's my fault because I (Sean) didn't think to look under the bed or whatever.


As for telling you what to say and what not to say...well, that's tricky, because it's very situational. It's hard to say what will or won't offend people you've never met, so often you don't find these lines until you slam into them headfirst. And sometimes people will actually go out of their way to put their "lines" in the path of what you're trying to say.

I'm okay with you asking me stuff about this, but it's getting late here and I have to get to bed. If you want to keep talking about this later on tomorrow, that's fine with me, but I don't know how much help I can be.

Zak Sabbath said...

Ok, two things:

1. I don't need the player skill thing explained right now--it;s enough to know "This is problematic to reasonable 4eers". It was just an example.

2. The main thing is:
Clearly at some point I pissed you off.
Clearly you are not some hair-trigger jerk waiting to be pissed off.
Clearly (I hope) I am not TRYING to piss you off and am asking--in good faith--to find a way to not piss off people like you.
So: can we start with an example of something I did or said that made you...less than well disposed toward me. Just as a starting point.

(I'd start with someone else but I wouldn't want to speak for them as to what they _meant_.)

You don't have to do it tonight if you don't have time, just something sometime whenever so we have a starting point to talk about this.

Ed Hirsch said...

Hey Zak!

I occasionally post in grognards.txt (I have a dog avatar and probably accidentally attributed the 'combat as sport vs. combat as war' discussion as something you said...don't know if you can read that thread) and I think Vornheim is pretty great.

Everyone occasionally says something kinda goofy or weird about D&D and I think you may have. Or not. Who knows. The thread you had where you kinda pitched a model to see if it would please 4e fans and the lengthy discussion of player skill was a little exhausting to read in one sitting but I doubt it's in anyone's top 1000 bad/dumb things list.

A lot of grognards.txt ends up being about internet peoples' creepy opinions about women or jocks or whatever, so in the grand scheme of things being the guy who maybe has problematic understanding of 4e is pretty much dust in the wind.

Anyways keep up the good work! I liked your A-Z monster review series a bunch!

Zak Sabbath said...

Thanks Ed

try to understand that me wanting to talk to a person about a thing does not mean I am losing sleep about anything on that forum.

I want to talk to Sean about a thing. That's it. Do not assumeit means more than that. It would be wrong.

Ed Hirsch said...

That's a lot of pleases but yeah I feel pretty comfortable about saying you're not losing sleep or super crazy. Everyone does the 'u mad?' shit now in internet arguing and it's kind of sad. I like to think I at least did it before it was cool.

But just like grognards (or people we think are) aren't really a hivemind neither are the people who hang out on SA so some people might be looking to troll you or something- but like I said I think Vornheim is pretty boss and your blog is cool.

Zak Sabbath said...

Hey, some people's hobby _is_ trolling. Not much we can do about that.

Ed Hirsch said...

Yeah, and in fairness trolling is a pretty good hobby!

Well if you want to chat about D&D let me know.

Ettin said...

So your post asking if anyone had something to say about your posting style disappeared as I was replying to it! Is it cool if I post it here?

(If so, prepare to be underwhelmed!)

Zak Sabbath said...



Zak Sabbath said...


If you like trolling then I regret to say we have a vast difference of opinion there.

Ed Hirsch said...

I feel I should post some clip of Bernie Mac saying "Come on son!" a whole bunch of times to that. But a clip like that probably doesn't exist so I'm going to just have to imagine it.

Zak Sabbath said...



Unknown said...

Dammit you guys, I actually wanted Zak to stay in grognards.txt with us, but I don't think that is going to happen now.

I wanted to ask about Vornheim stuff :(

Zak Sabbath said...


Ummm.... youknow you can ask me here, right?

And there's email.

Ettin said...

Basically some of your posts were pretty forward ("Come out and play" etc.) and some of the others are very careful in contrast (e.g. asking questions to check that you and Evil Mastermind were on the level once you guys started talking). Both of those kinds of posts are fine, it's just together the tone shift is jarring and makes the careful ones off-putting.

OTOH, in my limited experience ("I read your posts on rpgnet and rpgsite and we swapped PMs once") it at least partly depends on how people talk to you first, which is something I can relate to.

(Also, I want to end this post by asking if that made sense. We're relating!)

Unknown said...

Yeah, but get tons of comments on your blog and e-mails, I'm sure. You posting in Grog is like a little mini interview, because you are likely focusing your attention on the thread for a period of time.
Anyway, sorry SA is trolling your page. It sure isn't making the rest of us look great.

Ed Hirsch said...

It turns out you don't want to look for 'come on son!' on youtube.

But yeah I have Vornheim questions. I was always trying to understand the snakes-as-books idea. Are common snakes in some sense intelligent- do they know what their skin says? Do intelligent monsters (like dragons) know what their skin says?

Also, does the wyvern in the well count as a creature that would have valuable information in that regard?

I'm sure the answers could probably be 'whatever works for you', but just wondering what you've done with that.

Zak Sabbath said...



I write the way I normally write on this blog. Lots of people seem to like it, others get really pissed.

So when I am talking to people who seem to be pissed, I have to use much more careful language and go assumption by assumption.


I also realize that you guys probably realize some the people on G.txt are assholes but you don't want to fight with them because what's the point and it could get you kicked out, just unite against enemies outside the forum and ignore them otherwise.

Like: I don't see the fact that you're in the forum as evidence that you're a dick.

I just wish if someone wanted to know WTF IS HE ON ABOUT? they'd just show up and be polite and ask rather than going someplace I obviously can't go and venting WTF IS HE ON ABOUT?

Like a lot of this shit comes down to Three's Company-esque misunderstandings.

Zak Sabbath said...


Like I said: I am right here--in fact, you want to do a "mini-interview" you can--anywhere you want.

It's frustrating to me when people have questions or misunderstanding I can just clear up with like a sentence and they don't just ask.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Ed Hirsh

I assume the snakes are nonintelligent except maybe in some fairy-tale way if you get "speak to animals".

I assume dragons know what their skins say and that's the spells they use.

Others--depends on how smart they are.

I tend to assume the Wyvern knows almost anything that would make the game more interesting but if my players were around him a lot more I might develop a harder rule for it.

Ettin said...

It depends who it is, really. There have been some pretty big arguments between posters in grognards.txt, but some people tend to just get PgDwn'd past. (There is a fair amount of self-awareness going on, at least - "it's us, we're the grognards" is a catchphrase that gets tossed around a lot, and as a bonus googling "grognards.txt" "it's us" also gets you some SA posters yelling at each other!)

As for the other thing - I think part of the reason you don't often see SA people popping in elsewhere is that "cross-forum drama" has been a big no-no for a while now. The best example I can point to is the "TVTropes the Third" thread, dedicated to awful posts made by the TVTropes community - previous TVTropes threads have been locked and shitcanned because SA posters went there to troll, and the current thread's OP explicitly says "NO CROSS-FORUM INTERACTION. You are not allowed to post there."

Basically nobody wants to be that guy who gets banned for forum-invading RPGnet, so people tend to stick to SA and those who do post in multiple communities and wander into threads they saw posted there (like myself and LogicNinja) try to keep that shit seperate.

Zak Sabbath said...

Also, there are still people at Grognards.txt spinning their wheels going "WTF happened?"

Basically: Before I ever said a word to him, screen name: "Nate Winterau"/"some FUCKING LIAR" compared me to "a douchey principal" for trying to talk to Sean.

...and every question he asked after that was pretty much a troll. So that's what happened.

If you aren't a troll and are willing to assume I mean what I say, come say hi.

Zak Sabbath said...

It seems like a fundamentally frustrating forum: you want to discuss game ideas, but if anybody's ideas are too different they get pre-emptively trolled before anybody can engage those ideas.

And then someone outside has to do some extreme thing (like this here) in order to have a conversation and then half the forum jumps all over them and assumes they're there to eat their children and sour the milk when they just wanna go "Hey, this thing you said, let's talk about that thing"

Zak Sabbath said...

Like, for example, this here:

"OtspIII posted:
What's super interesting about this is that one of Zak's best posts is exactly about this issue. A whole lot of what went down tonight is fairly confusing to me in light of the really insightful things he's said about how to have functional internet conversations.

He has acted exactly this way in every conversation I've ever seen him involved in"

Like, come here, let's talk about that.

What are you on about? Where? You guys love direct quotes--quote me.

Whatever I said pisses you off? I'll stop. I don't have an incentive to make your life worse.

Ed Hirsch said...

--It seems like a fundamentally frustrating forum: you want to discuss game ideas, but if anybody's ideas are too different they get pre-emptively trolled before anybody can engage those ideas.--

To be fair this is true of a lot of forums or other internet discussion methods...but yeah there's a defensiveness of 4e that's a bit excessive there, no denying.

Zak Sabbath said...


Pretend you were me for a second.

Life's good. But you want to talk about games. You talk about games: lots of people agree with you. That's nice, but dull. Then there are all these people locked away who might have different opinion (that's fun), but they're locked behind this wall and get real defensive when you even notice they are there.

You try to talk to one of them, you get trolled for trying to do it.

So then you only get to talk to people who agree with you already.

The communities get more and more isolated and more and more insular because of all this defensiveness.

It's boring.

OtspIII said...

There are a few issues people have raised that I figure you responding to would do a lot to smooth out the conversation.

You spent a lot of time laying out some very basic concepts at the start of the conversation with Sean. Some posters saw this as patronizing, which I think is where Nate was coming from with the "douchey principal" comment. I assumed it was just an attempt to be methodical to prevent the conversation from turning into two parties talking past each other, but I do have to admit that a single 'if, at any time during the conversation, you feel like I have ulterior motives call me the fuck out on it ASAP' could have replaced a lot of it. Still, that's a matter of personal discussion style, not an attack on your character. To destroy as much ambiguity as possible, what was your motivation in taking the start of the conversation so slow?

Also, I think that the act of post-deleting ruffles a lot of feathers over in the g.txt part of the internet. I can understand the desire to keep a clean and focused comment section, but some people felt that by deleting the points that Nate was trying to make (even if he was making them in an insulting way) you were proving that you weren't really here to have a fair discussion. I think a big part of this is that over at SA the mods don't really moderate tone in most cases (although they can be pretty brutal some things like post syntax), and so the community generally either ignores asshole tone during a discussion or just relies on the fellow posters to deal with the problem. The deletion of posts based on tone might feel a lot more controlling to SA posters than people from other forums. I guess, can we get a ruling on the types of posts that will get deleted, even if they contain a point people want to see answered?

Ed Hirsch said...

Yeah it's boring, but at the same time there are a lot of attempts to engage people you (the royal you) disagree with on the internet that fail miserably. Just about any thread that tries to talk across edition becomes a rehearsed dance of "how do you not understand the imbalance inherent in 3e?" "3e wasn't imbalanced it just wasn't a kids game like 4e!" stuff. And is almost civil in comparison to some of the weirder ends of The Gaming Den or RPG Pundit or etc etc.

I don't think you're about that kind of stuff- but it's been several years of that kind of exhausting slog in D&D in particular. I think it's now just people getting their own dance steps started because they feel they've been down these attempts at conversation.

Honestly- I think if you came back after that probation (and just FYI- I doubt it was any sort of mod waiting in the wings to have a gotcha moment, SA just tries to enforce an SA posting style so the forums don't look like 4chan or reddit or such) and posted in some of the non-D&D threads you'd see even more interesting conversations than the D&D stuff. And a lot of normal discussion and disagreement.

Zak Sabbath said...


Re: Nate
Once I realized Nate was this guy:
"I was thinking douchey high school principal.
Either way Jeffrey Jones is playing him in the movie."

"Yeah man. Dude who wrote Vornheim called you out. Elfgames arguments ain't nothing to fuck wit."

"Oh don't worry it's cool guys no problem he's promising not to bite now."

"Well then why not say "hey guys let's talk about how we talk about games and put our conversation on the net" instead of posting a personal call-out on his blog in High Supervillain?"

(as if I had a choice? thanks for the benefit of the doubt)

"Someone else: "You could ask him. "

Nate: "Pass."

I realized he was the kind of person who assumes bad faith before even talking to somebody. That is: a dick whose hobby is insulting other people on the internet.

So I don't want to talk to him and nothing he says matters.

Basically the ruling is: no personal attacks, ever, anywhere. Except, of course, you can pile insults all over trolls on their way out. Because fuck them they are slowing down the progress of the human race and deserve it.


As for the slowgo on Sean, yes:

" I assumed it was just an attempt to be methodical to prevent the conversation from turning into two parties talking past each other"

Absolutely. Long experience in talking to people who take your CASUAL writing style the wrong way has taught me that you have to adopt a NOT CASUAL method to avoid pissing them off or--worse--wasting time playing "Find The Unshared Assumption."

I mean, I'm sure you've seen a million internet arguments where people waste like ninety pages before they realize they don't even share basic assumption one and it was all pointless because they are jsut writing casually back and forth in a snarky vernacular hatespiral. I don't like doing that, so I start from zero.

Maybe it makes me sound like HAL but if there's some genius out there on the cutting edge of "How to talk to a member of a forum after it has pre-emptively trolled you" who knows more than me about how to do this shit, neither he nor she has spoken up.

Ettin said...

Well, I'd at least argue that SA is less insular than a lot of other forums. Grognards.txt alone has bought a lot of people accounts as an invitation to talk about elfgames, as you've seen! The paywall is intimidating, though, especially when a lot of other forums don't have that barrier, and in the specific case of grognards.txt it is super annoying to find out people are talking about you but you have to pay money to go reply.

If you do feel like checking SA out later, it's worth looking into the other threads in the Traditional Games forum. There's plenty of discussion and arguments about elfgames in those!

(Also I'm about to rush off and get dinner, so sorry if I missed something you wanted to talk about/I disappear for hours!)

Zak Sabbath said...

Well, again, it's not as interesting to have a conversation with people who are like "Yeah, we all agree" as with people who have different ideas than you.

OtspIII said...

Yeah, SA is weird. There's a lot of overt aggression that's tolerated, so people are completely willing to call you a shithead for even the slightest reason, but it's actually really fucking good at avoiding passive aggression and insincere arguments. There's a lot of trolling in the sense that people call other people bad names, but that very directness means that there's almost none of the 'adopting a fake persona to make people mad for the sake of making them mad' type. If you just let the way people say shit flow past you the conversations tend to actually be way higher functioning than I've found in most other parts of the internet.

And yeah, grognards.txt is a weird thread with some unhealthy habits and some really interesting discussion. The rest of TradGames might be less jarring to someone not used to the SA posting philosophy.

Zak Sabbath said...


It just seems like a ventspace.

Like right at this very second this guy with the Christopher Lloyd avatar is saying he doesn't believe what I just wrote.

Why wouldn't he just come out and ask about it?

He must either:

-assume I'm nuts for some thing lost in the mists of time I don't know shit about that he never bothered to talk to me about _then_.


-he doesn't really care, the thread is just there so he can crack jokes VH-1 style

Which is it?

OtspIII said...

@Zak S

I mean, sort of both, but it's not just in relationship to you? There is a general attitude of "it's not worth it" when it comes to confronting the people being quoted (with occasional exceptions for people who expand their awfulness beyond RPGs, like the oft-cited rape apologists).

The next time anybody does it to you, you'll be able to call them out directly, at least. Mikan's a pretty smart guy, actually, so I figure some real interesting shit could come out of you two butting heads.

Zak Sabbath said...

Ok, perfect example:

Mikan complains about a 640 post thread I start on RPGnet.

I start the thread by saying something that looks--to me and all my horrible primitive grognardly pals (including the 20 year old porn chick grogs in my house)-- totally neutral.

I get this defensive backlash IMMEDIATELY from RPGnet like I came to everyone's house and raped their pets. HOW DARE YOU ASK ME A QUESTION?

(Because, of course, unlike everyone else on the internet I'm
somehow _especially bad at communicating_.)

So then I have to do this step-by-step-relax-I'm-just-here-to-read-the-meter-lady thing in the thread. I am extremely patient. Which I'm sure looks condescending if you yourself are as worried that I'm going to secretly assfuck 4e as the people in the thread.

...AND IT WORKS--we have a fucking conversation about 4E! 600-odd posts! I learn that the reasons I like it are different than the reasons other people like it and all kinds of shit.

I learn all kinds of things about how gamers who aren't me think--about what kinds of things we can and can't agree on. And now I can talk to them about it.

It's awesome and helpful and--aside from 2 trolls--pretty civil.

And Mikan is giving me shit about it.

Or about how I started it.

Or, I guess, about not knowing what a bunch of 4e people thought about the game BEFORE I ASKED THEM.

Like I said: pre-trolled.

How do I even begin to talk to a person like that?

How am I gonna assume good will from someone who basically is fucking with me for not being psychic?

I want to believe you that this is a smart person I could have a conversation with, but he's just putting out frat boy deathrays.

Like: What, precisely, did I ever do to the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons other than not play it for the same reasons some other guy did? Where did this defensiveness start? Like: I have a link to Grognardia on my blog--is that like the Mark of Cain?

Ettin said...

Missed a couple posts!

>It just seems like a ventspace.

grognards.txt is basically a mock thread, so yeah, a lot of it is ventspace. There's a lot of discussion in its pages too, though - we've had plenty from everything from game design to misogyny to religion, so long as it's vaguely game-related. On the other hand sometimes you just want to post "Well fuck that guy!", though.

OtspIII is also right that the default assumption tends to be "It's not worth arguing with". That and the board being against cross-forum drama means most posters aren't likely to engage anyone who gets quoted. Most are less "people with different ideas are interesting!" and more "people who disagree with me are BULLIES!", though. (e.g. Libramarian, who I recall you've encountered before!) I can see why you'd be frustrated!

Zak Sabbath said...

I tend to feel like every possible
Thing has already been done.

Like: the possibilities afforded by angry insularity have been, for the time being, exhausted. Like: we get it, you think old-timey wizards are too powerful, let's use these big brains to do and talk about something more fun than that now.

Or is this just me being crazy and Quixotic?

Ettin said...

Most people quoted are less* etc etc.

I can't speak for Mikan and I imagine this would get weird if I relayed "hey here's what some dude thinks" messages anyway, though.

Zak Sabbath said...

He either shows up or he doesn't I guess.

Zak Sabbath said...

Plus, really this IS really getting into "let's talk about Grognards.txt itself" which is not why I put up this post. I was just tryna talk to Sean.

But if you guys are ok with talking about this, I am.

Ettin said...

Fuck, I just said ", though" like a million times.

And yeah this has gone on kind of a supertangent, even compared to the original thing I posted about. I don't think either of us are determined to be an INTERNET ARGUMENT WINNER™ or anything anyway, so if it's cool I might see where this whole Zak/Sean you wanted goes!

Trent_B said...

Conversations can be so _hard_ sometimes.

Zak Sabbath said...

Only because I make them hard because I am a terrible person.

Trent_B said...

I'm tempted to make some kind of passive-aggressive comment about your sarcasm or something, except that I can't because I don't have a foolish troll-brain. Pity, this could've been the seed of a 76 comment thread.

Also, I'm home now. So if you need an stuff-doing Australian in your G+ game, I will be so presumptuous as to recommend my own services.

Mikan said...

The whole threaded comments thing is kind of an annoying way to do discussions, this would be a lot easier if you weren't probated and discussion could happen on SA.

Zak Sabbath said...


Well that's not possible. However, if you just want to post down at the bottom and we do unthreaded "@" comments then that's ok with me.

I think having a conversation about games is not very important but it's way more important than shat format it's in, in this case.

Zak Sabbath said...


"even though you're a dude who doesn't know why people like 4e"

I play 4e

Zak Sabbath said...

You can respond to that or you can not. If you don't, then I am just going to assume your here to vent and forget it.

Mikan said...

And yet somehow you didn't know any of the reasons why all of those people liked 4e, your proposed system offered none of the benefits most of us see from 4e and it took you a 640 post thread to really get the basics of why all of those people are so in love with 4e

Zak Sabbath said...


So is your point that:

-I am lying and don't actually play it?


- It is somehow insulting to like it for different reasons than other people?

Mikan said...

I believe you play 4e, Zak. I'm not saying I don't believe you've ever played 4e.

Do you believe me when I say I believe you? Is that okay? If you do, then we can continue this conversation.

Zak Sabbath said...


Sure, so then what is the point of this comment:

"And yet somehow you didn't know any of the reasons why all of those people liked 4e, your proposed system offered none of the benefits most of us see from 4e and it took you a 640 post thread to really get the basics of why all of those people are so in love with 4e"

Mikan said...

To reiterate that you are "a dude who doesn't know why people like 4e". The things posted in the RPGnet thread are mos def not a minority opinion when it comes to the merits of 4e.

Mikan said...

Though I should put that as a past tense didn't, since I imagine after 640 posts you get it now

Zak Sabbath said...

(typo, sorry)


And this failure-to-read-the-internet-enough-to-know-why-some-people-like-4e is worth you getting angry (or snarky, or whatever you call it) why?

Especially considering--unlike a million other people--I actually _realized that and tried to do something about it_ ?

Mikan said...

I posted a thing in grognards.txt and was done with it.

You found that one thing in a nearly 66000 post thread (name searching, referrals, lurking the thread, dunno) and called out a fairly benign party on your blog with a creepy message and made a big deal out of it. Most of the discussion was about how you write cool things, you just need to chill out - and you responded to this by doing exactly not that. Even my post (where I said a mean thing about what you write, mostly because of your tone) was a statement that people should read the thread you posted.

Dude, I don't care about your elfgame opinions. (Well, I mean I do care in the sense that it's cool that you have them and publish them, but I don't care in the sense that I'm upset about them.) As long as you're not pulling the creepy, misogyny, racist, awful stuff we post in grognards.txt then you can believe whatever you want about elfgames.
Your problem isn't what you think about RPGs, it's how you act

Zak Sabbath said...


I'm not here to complain that someone somewhere said something I didn't like. If you think that we can stop now and I'll just erase this because it's useless:

So, basically I could re-say all the things I said to Sean D up there and ask you if you believe them one by one or just ask you to read the part of the thread where I talk to Sean and tell me which--if any--part of it you don't believe.

As far as calling Sean out: I couldn't think of any other way to get in touch with him.

As far as the language I used: if I talk casually like I talk to everybody else:

I get called a creepy supervillain and if I talk in a measured language and go step by step I get called names too.

I can't win on that score and you probably know that.

If you have an ungodly number of people reading you every month (because your blog has the word "porn" in it), you're gonna inevitably piss 5% of them off.


So, if you want to talk, read the Sean D part above and let me know if all that makes sense to you or not.

Zak Sabbath said...

I guess the moral of the story is:

Mikan hates how I talk to people enough to complain about it in a forum,

but not enough to actually, like, tell me why so maybe it will stop.

So: Recreational whining, I guess.

Harlo said...

Seriously, why don't you invite some goons to a game?

Zak Sabbath said...


Anybody from Grog.txt who wants to play a game on G+ comment here.

Zak Sabbath said...

Another moral:

If people make personal attacks on you and you delete them, it makes them sad.

John said...

From over here it looks like a lack of good faith in the other party, aka the same thing underlying 95% of all internet bickering ever. It's human nature to assume people are being dishonest or self-deluding. He assumed you were being condescending, and when you talk about it he assumes it's because you took offence. You assume he's a troll. Everyone rolls their eyes and goes home.

Mikan said...

The real moral is that you claimed I never told you why you are insufferable

and then deleted the comment where I told you exactly why

So: goongrats, please come visit us again in a week

Zak Sabbath said...


"shitty shitty tone" doesn't help me change it.

Please give me an actual direct quote of a thing I said in the Original Post on that thread that bothered you.

Then I can, like, look at it and see what the problem is and how I could try to say that thing without enraging you.

Sean D said...

1. Okay, fair enough. I misunderstood why you brought it up.

2. At no point have you pissed me off. Really. There's really only two people who come up that actually make me angry; I'm not going to name them because this isn't the place for it and anyone who's seen me posting in grogs.txt knows who they are, and you're not one of them.

As for an example of something you said or did...well, I'd have to say up above here where you were posting one "assumption" or question at a time and waiting for my answer. I realize it wasn't your attention, but it made me feel like I was being led into something.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Sean D

Ok, this thread (and post) is clearly a sticky situation and not easy to navigate.

Can you give me an example of something I said before this whole post and thread and what-all that you received....less than well? (Or however you'd put it)

Sean D said...

Off the top of my head, the only thing I can think of was a post you made here a while back (and sorry, I don't know how to find it) where you made a comment that "story gamers insist that games have to be 'about' something".

I had a problem with that statement, because it struck me as unnecessary line-in-the-sand-drawing. In my experience, there's really no difference between "story gamers" and "traditional gamers". It felt very...backhanded the way the point was phrased.

Zak Sabbath said...

1. I said that the word "About" was very popular in dissatisfied-with-D&D-circles. (Maybe that was what you meant, maybe something else)

I think somebody could only really call that aggressive if they thought I already had some kinda issue with story gamers (by which I mean, basically, people who post a lot on the story-games forum and are into the indie games popular on that forum).

2. This thing you said seems _way_ stronger than that:

" as soon as someone disagrees with him or asks him to clarify something, he loses his shit."

#1's not an example of me Losing My Shit I don;t think--that phrase is from a post which is not a response to anybody. So I think there has to be more to this.

Now, I think maybe we have a Give A Fuck Gap here:

Since this sentence is about me, and I happen to like talking about shit like this and wonder about how people get all internetangry at each other, I Give A Fuck about this.

Maybe you don't. Maybe this is just like "Hey, I said it, I didn't really mean anything by it, I'm not sure I even thought it out"

Or maybe it is and you kinda think "Yeah, he does do that"

So you can say:
"Y'know, I don't care, it's not a big deal to me, I'm done, this is boring"

and that's fine, I appreciate your time

or you can say

"Oh yeah, I have evidence here that every time someone disagrees with Zak he Loses His Shit and here is what I'm talking about..."

So yeah, do what you like with that.

Sean D said...

Well, I really didn't mean anything by it. Was "flip your shit" the best phrase I could have picked? Of course not, and honestly, I apologize for saying it. I have no problem with you at all, really. I disagree with you on some stuff, but that's just a minor thing. Sometimes it does seem (to me) that you overreact a bit; like before with Nate. But I do that too; like I said before there are some people who will honestly raise my blood pressure when they get posted, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's one or two people who hate my guts too.

It's not a case of this being boring, I just don't know what else to say.

Zak Sabbath said...

Ok, so far as Nate: he said the whole "douchey principal" thing before he said word one to me and assumed bad faith on my part. That starts him at negative 200 points. Period. I assume you can understand that.


This may be dumb, bear with me:

I'm a guy who wrote something you bought or liked or I wrote things you thought were ok or whatever I don't know. Anyway, not a wholly evil and satanic presence in your mind I presume.


If I do some shit that seems unreasonable to you and you think "I'll complain about it on the internet", is it ok for me to just, first, say "Hey, come ask me about it?

I will listen and think and say:
'Hey maybe you;re right' or

I'll go 'Ok, here;s the thing' and maybe you'll see my point, or

I'll say something Totally Fucked Up and you can be like "Ok, that guy is nuts, I am SURE I never have to talk to him again" and then make fun of it.

Can I humbly request that you do that? Just because, that's how we start having conversations across the lines. Which I presume is at least a little bit of an interesting idea to you because you read this page, and all we do here is talk about games.

Sean D said...

Sounds fair to me.

Zak Sabbath said...

Thanks, I appreciate it.
And thanks for coming over and doing this, too.

Ed Hirsch said...

I will do this. I'm pretty crazy booked these days with papers and studying, but I can try to make time.

Unknown said...

I would love this. Just say when and I'll make it work.

Ed Hirsch said...

No idea if there's a 4e warlord equivalent in your homebrew, but I'd call dibs on a Peyton Manning inspired leader who's kinda just a thoughtless good guy who's really more into the technical sport of goblin-murder.

Zak Sabbath said...

Warlord for this homebrew...hmmm....
Ok, first level:
hp as cleric
saves & base attack as fighter
on a successful int check you may give another PC (including yourself) a second non-hitting non-spell action per round, like hold up a holy symbol, snatch an item, open a trap, throw caltrops, trip etc etc

Alternately, in a round you may roll 2 dice and pick the highest for any action in a combat round.

How's that sound?

Zak Sabbath said...

@monsterTV and Ed hisch

Email me, my address is above. we'll set it up.

DestroyYouAlot said...

It will just tickle me pink if the outcome of this whole thousand-plus post holocaust* is that 3 or 4 people sit down and have an enjoyable game. OH INTERNET, YOU SO CRAZY. ;)


* "Thousand-plus" being in reference to the sum total of comments here, on flaccid purple, and SA. ("I can't believe I ate the whole thing!")

Dungeon Smash said...

is it possible that maybe everybody that plays this game is pretty weird?

Zak Sabbath said...

Note: I removed a subthread from this, which I am now reposting edited to protect the innocent/guilty. Only the names and identifying info have been changed:

I treat getting quoted on grognards.txt as a badge of pride. It's been a while since I checked, but I used to be one of the more quoted people on there, after obvious choices like Jojo McAngrymaker and Frank Trollman.


Zak SFeb 29, 2012 08:06 PM
Quoted would be awesome. Then you'd know what people were complaining about.

I tend not to get quoted much.


EttinFeb 29, 2012 08:08 PM
Congratulations on still being worked up about it!


Zak SFeb 29, 2012 08:10 PM

Personal attacks don't fly on my blog. You've got the whole rest of the internet for that, Ettin.


John BellFeb 29, 2012 08:13 PM
You just need fewer line breaks. They look for paragraph-sized chunks to quote so that it looks good.


John BellFeb 29, 2012 08:27 PM
@Ettin> I'm not angry about it at all, mate. I enjoy reading grognards.txt and am glad to be featured in it regularly, though I notice my quotes haven't been as common now that I'm not posting on (some forum) anymore. :(


Zak Sabbath said...

EttinFeb 29, 2012 08:43 PM
I am just ribbing you! A lot of people who find themselves quoted there say something along those lines (and a lot of them get super worked up about it). That and "I wanted to get quoted, I am the puppetmaster!" cover most responses to grognards.txt quotes so after a while they all sort of blur together, I guess. As long as you don't be that guy who blogged about it for six months it is fine though!

Were you Pseudoephedrine? I don't read (some forum) much so that is my only guess.


John BellFeb 29, 2012 08:53 PM
Got it in one! I'm running a blog these days and having a grand time.

I don't consider myself a puppetmaster or anything crazy like that. I do find grognards.txt hilarious, so I don't mind being quoted in it.

BTW, I left you guys a present earlier in this very thread as a show of friendship. Guess who the frequently quoted "Joey McAngrymaker" is? ;)


EttinFeb 29, 2012 09:25 PM
Well hey while you're here, I also remember quoting you a while back about some of the setting fluff you wrote and in hindsight I posted too much dumb vitriol on it, even if I wasn't much of a fan. So yeah, sorry about that.

What got you banned from that , anyway? Reading it later I got the impression that you internet detective'd obvious-choice Guy Incognito's real name or something!


EttinFeb 29, 2012 09:38 PM
I mean Pseudoephedrine/John Bell. Last time I checked he was banned, anyway.


John BellFeb 29, 2012 09:41 PM
No worries, it was one of those threads where everyone was all heated and angry. I don't have any bad blood about it, and sorry if I was rude at the time.

I got banned from (some forum) for telling people that if they looked up Guy Incognito's real name, they'd see how much of a hypocrite he was. I didn't actually post the name then, but he banned me for "inciting stalking". I've known his name for years - I discovered it when I did a on the site a few years ago after he said (something which is hard to disagree with but which would identify Guy)

Anyhow, keep up the good stuff on grognards.txt and wish my best to the folks over there!


John BellFeb 29, 2012 09:44 PM

I got banned in January from (some forum) It's why I've been more active in the blogs since then. Sorry to blogjack!


EttinFeb 29, 2012 10:03 PM
Yeah, it looks like I kind of hijacked one of your comment threads. Sorry about that!

(Also, John - if you ever feel like posting in SA's trad games forum, I would not mind continuing the fine SA tradition of nobody paying for their own account ever.)


John BellFeb 29, 2012 10:13 PM
Thanks for the kind offer, Ettin, but I'm going through a particularly busy time in my life right now, and I'm actually trying to reduce the amount of time I spend on forums. I'll just lurk and laugh along for now. :)