Thursday, December 22, 2011

Type IV Hypersensitivity + Ask Questions First

No worries, this story has a moral...

Here is quite possibly a new low in mountain-out-of-molehill (mole-valley, really) facepalmingly dumb mom's-basement nerdrage nitpick embarrassment-to-the-gaming-populationdom:

People are calling each other names on account of other people saying 'Type IV D&D' instead of '4th edition D&D'.

Allow me to explain...

So long ago, in the days of yore, I noticed an annoying thing:

Whenever Old School D&D people made any reference to the 4th edition D&D, no matter how oblique or unrelated to the gameplay (''I think my uncle's third cousin on my mothers side worked on the graphic design for a 4e adventure''), some other (often otherwise sane) Old School person would inevitably begin to uncontrollably gush unrelated invective at 4e for 12 paragraphs. Like clockwork.

Like good people everywhere, I found this dull and redundant. Every characteristic of 4E had been exhaustively catalogued by the internet hivemind seconds after it was released and nobody needed now or then to hear about all the alleged problems with it again in the middle of some conversation about Clark Ashton Smith's will or whatever. Saying '4e' on an Old School blog was getting to be like saying 'Israel' on NPR. (Or 'OSR' on the touchier message boards.)

I realized early on that the reason it set people off was that some old schoolers saw 4e as being--consciously or otherwise--an updated replacement for the game they loved--rather than what it de-facto-is-no-matter-what-any-company-says given that games do not ever die--a version of D&D. Just as OD&D is a version, AD&D is a version and Moldvay is a version and Mentzer is a version and Stormbringer is a version and Pathfinder and Rolemaster and whatever else is a version. It just happens to be a version in print.

So I started calling the official TSR and WOTC versions of the game (all of them) Type I, Type II, Type III, and Type IV. This emphasized that they were options--different types of D&D whose bits a DM could call upon in whole or in part to hack together a workable game to fit his or her group's individual needs. It had the added bonus of making the iterations of the game sound like demons from the original Monster Manual, which, if you haven't noticed, is funny.

(For those familiar with the early hobby: pre-2nd ed D&D actually went through way more permutations than just one, so the scheme isn't perfect, but I am not one of those bloggers who cares about or refers to the Moldvay, Mentzer or OD&D versions very much so it didn't much bug me at the time.)

So anyway, this name scheme caught on with some other people. Rather than the to-the-uninitiated-equally-opaque '4e', some DIY D&Ders started calling the official version of the game 'Type IV' (including people who play it almost exclusively). No-one in their right mind really gave a shit because seriously why would you? either the sentence is readable or its not--call it Suzi Quatro for all I care.

Then one day some people saw the words 'Type IV' and decided it was worth calling people names about. Since the term 'Type IV' usually only appeared in stuff written by people who read this blog, it was assumed by some folk eager to be displeased that the phrase was some kind of cryptic Old School slur on 4th edition and it raised hackles.

Assumed out of nowhere, I might add, since I like Type IV and play it sometimes and have said that nearly every time it comes up here. But the internet is like that: people began losing their shit over something and slinging insults into the void when they could've just saved themselves the effort by being like -type type- ''Hey you, why do you call it Type IV?'' and waiting a day or two hours. Which is actually less work than writing a 900-word post on how anyone who says 'Type IV' is a motherless jackal.

And its all the more embarrassing because the phrase 'Type____' was adopted as an anti-edition-warring measure.

Moral of the story:

Before getting upset about something someone said or did, always ask a question first. Otherwise, no matter how many dicks are in the room, you are one of them.

If you're wrong, you saved yourself a pointless argument. And if you're right, your question's likely to make the the offender say something even more clearly crazy and over the line and more entertaining than the original thing that pissed you off, and then you've got a headshot. Furries Undermine Legitimate Cosplay!!!!!!!

Always make sure. And why not? Things are often not what they seem.


Pat Henry said...

...But ...but Nalfeshenee is fat, hairy, ugly and has sissy wings. So it has to be an insult. Otherwise you'd compare it to Hezrou, who is Larry The Cable Guy dead sexy.

Timothy Paul Schaefer said...

In that case, I like Gamma World Type IV, but Type IV Gamma World is okay by me too.
We *can* all get along!

RobChandler said...

Anyone who gets that worked up over the semantics of calling it 4e vs type IV really needs to get laid.

John Matthew Stater said...

Anyone who gets that worked up over the semantics of calling it 4e vs type IV probably cannot get laid. Sad indeed.

Pierce said...

You Zak, are a shining beacon of hope and rationality.

liza said...

Wisdom 18.

Kiel Chenier said...

I actually started calling it Type IV/Type III/etc on my blog after reading that Zak did.

While this was partly because I thought it was a clever way of diffusing the stigmatization of '4e' as a moniker, it was mostly because I like Zak's blog and wanted mine to be more like his because I want to be more popular.


Seth S. said...

Sometimes seeing Type IV made me do a double take while reading some blog entries. In context it's pretty easy to figure out of course. I always wondered why people called it that but I guess I just never thought to ask.

Good to know though, at least there's a funny story behind it. People get upset over some amazing things.

Trent_B said...

1. "Furries Undermine Legitimate Cosplay!" will never stop being smile-inducing.

2. Type_IV_Hypersensitivity being an actual Thing is so wonderful. All is as it should be.

Wyrin said...

Not sure of the value in standing King Canute-esque against the tides of the internet when it comes to pointing out overreactions, hypersensitivity and flawed arguments. The internet *is* the proverbial room full of dicks - and by stepping in , you have to embrace that fact

Wyrin said...

sorry, that's myu early morning pessimism out of the way...

Zak Sabbath said...

the existence of this page will be very useful in embarrassing people with type IV hypersensitivity in the future.

and, in general, when i say Hey Don't Do This Dick Thing--it doesn't change the whole internet, but it often changes what happens in this neighborhood--and that's all that matters.

dervishdelver said...

Zak S said... --it doesn't change the whole internet, but it often changes what happens in this neighborhood--and that's all that matters.

until the next osr (or roleplaying in general) soap opera erupts. i'm with wyrin.

anyway, what happened to playing for fun, no matter what the edition? who would have to justify that?

Zak Sabbath said...


I've seen a vast improvement over the years. if you don't maybe you're looking in a different neighborhood.

as for your second point, I don't really get what that has to do with anything in the original post or in the comments but yeah, obviously.

dervishdelver said...

my point, and i think the real point of any of these discussions, is that people lose sight of the true purpose of gaming. but, maybe like you said, obvious.

Zak Sabbath said...

i always hope so

mordicai said...

Every little bit helps. Hey, maybe one day there will be a sudden eruption of civility & courtesy on the internet, & in the meat world. Hey, maybe.

Anonymous said...

There's too many dicks in gaming (or at least commenting on gaming, god knows half of them aren't actually participating beyond pretending to be angry about it) but you are absolutely right about what happens in your own neighborhood is really all that matters.

Roger G-S said...

I think some people took the word "demonize" too literally there.

ravenconspiracy said...

Q: Why did you make this post instead of (or at least in addition to) posting a sweet table or a new monster?

Zak Sabbath said...


obviously because I didnt want to steal the spotlight from Rolang who has been killing it recently with the awesome tables.duh:

ravenconspiracy said...

Oh nice link and thank you. Another Christmas Miracle!!!!!

Nagora said...

"I realized early on that the reason it set people off was that some old schoolers saw 4e as being--consciously or otherwise--an updated replacement for the game they loved--rather than what it de-facto-is-no-matter-what-any-company-says given that games do not ever die--a version of D&D."

While I agree with the general thrust (ho ho) of what you're saying, this bit just isn't true - if 4e was not a replacement for 3e (and 3e for 2e etc) then the company who produced 3e and 4e would keep printing both. 4e is intended - consciously - as a replacement and, for normal people going into normal games shops, it is. I can guarantee that 4e rules are outselling 3e, 2e, 1e, and OD&D combined.

I don't think you can dismiss that fact of life by waving your hand and typing a lot of hyphens.

Whether one cares about such things any more is, of course, a matter for one's own conscience (or blog, whichever is more easily accessible).

Daniel Dean said...

I can guarantee that the store I work at, we have as many people going after new Pathfinder books as we do after D&D, and a huge overlap between the two, and these people dig in our 60% off bins just as much for older era material, and I can further guarantee that I've turned about a quarter of these on to some nice old school clone of some variety.

I can further guarantee that folks in the OSR community are doing pretty okay with their versions, monetarily, and the only numbers we have (reliable or not) suggest Paizo is keeping pace with or outpacing WOTC.

So I can guarantee that you're pulling declarations out of your ass. Especially since the thrust of your argument seems to be "Zak's comments and methodology are fundamentally wrong because even though all these different takes on D&D are making money and are legitimate options in choosing a system and are generally pretty accessible, they're not all making money for the same 12 people in Seattle at once" which is bonkers.

Now go get drunk and think about something other than edition wars for a day, it's fucking Christmas.

semiprometheus said...

Shorter Daniel Dean (I think): "Official D&D (TM)" is not necessarily the same as D&D-the-game-we-play.

Slightly longer: We don't HAVE to switch versions just because the current trademark holder ends support for one line and promotes another. For that matter, we don't HAVE to alter our group's game world based on whatever the rules publisher churns out that month, we don't HAVE to use rules-as-written if they're more effort than they're worth, and we don't HAVE to use the rules we like the way the author or publisher intended them. We don't HAVE to be professional game designers to make our own games.

These principles underly the OSR, the indie movement, the creation of all alternatives to D&D, and the creation of D&D itself. And they're freaking GAMES, man; they're what we do for FUN. If you're not having fun, you are really, truly, Doing It Wrong.

Now I'll stop SCREAMING and take my PILLS. Happy HOLIDAYS!

Nagora said...

@Dan: Nice irony there - I mention the different editions of D&D and you fly off on some strange rant about Pathfinder and the OSR which I never mentioned. Hypersensitive at all?

My point is that we have a hobby where the basic equipment (ie, the rules) are legally controlled by a single company at least insofar as what Zak is calling "Type I", "Type II" etc are concerned. This is not to say that people have not created alternatives to the official Types.

Zak's point (I think) is that it is unreasonable for players of any edition to see the other editions as a threat to their own ability to play their favourite edition, yet this is exactly what each edition is intended to be. The publisher does not want you or I to continue playing OOP editions (or clones, although they're not what we're talking about) since they make them no money. So it's not quite such an irrational reaction to a new edition as is being suggested.

It is somewhat as if there was a single producer of footballs which can be called "a football™" who brings out new footballs™ every so often. When they do, of course we can all continue using our old footballs or even make our own non-standard footballs and sell them under some other name but the reality is that we will find it harder to get teams together and we will have to spend time explaining and perhaps justifying ourselves to new players who have only every used the official football and assume that the old footballs are by definition out-of-date and the unofficial footballs are cheap semi-criminal knock-offs of their favourite spherical object towards which they feel loyalty.

So, despite the truth of the declaration that we can all continue playing what we like and use our preferred rules, it is not entirely fair to say that each edition is simply an option and not a replacement. For new players entering the hobby the perception is exactly that and that perception has an effect even on us enlightened players who know that a ruleset does not vanish at the whim of some corporate suit's press release because it affects how we have to relate to those new players.

darren e said...

The publisher does not want you or I to continue playing OOP editions (or clones, although they're not what we're talking about) since they make them no money.

I think that kind of thinking shows a truly amazing lack of empathic depth.

Frankly, it's silly to think they give even half a flying fuck if you continue to to play older additions or not. In fact, many of them continue to play older editions as well. Hell, many of them spend a lot of time designing and playing completely different RPGs.

What they are concerned about is creating a new product that they think will breath life, not only into the hobby they love (just as much as anyone else), but to produce a product that appeals to as many people as possible. They can't force you to like what they make, nor do they need you to abandon your older beloved editions. They only want to make something that that people more people like than the previous version. That's how a business works.

...or maybe its just some bizarre conspiracy that has nothing at all to do with trying to grow a business based off of what actually sells.

Nagora said...

"Frankly, it's silly to think they give even half a flying fuck if you continue to to play older additions or not."

Yes, because publishers know that we all have infinite amounts of leisure time and a new game system is in no way automatically in competition with their own OOP systems.

Joe Johnston said...

The most inspiring part of the old school RPG revolution is that it's in the hands of the players, not a company. It's not a product, but a genuine non-commercial hobby.

That's a remarkable accomplishment.

The company that holds the rights to D&D name will keep publishing new versions of the rules and new content. That's terrific! I wish them the best of luck. Really, I do. Their success is completely orthogonal to my hobby.

Those that wish to play the old school games have to do it ourselves. Luckily, D&D encourages this spirit (which is why we like it).

The Internet can fuel this old school hobby in ways that could only be dreamed of in the 70s and 80s.

Game on.