Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

March 6, 2008

Ten great things in gaming Part 3 – Gygax

Filed under: 10 things in gaming — lexifab @ 4:29 pm

Gary Gygax, the (somewhat contentiously disputed) co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons and by extension founder of the hobby on which I spend most of my time and through which i have built a great many enduring friendships, died yesterday, aged 69.

He wasn’t originally going to be on this list. the original intent was to celebrate what’s new in the hobby, what’s taking it in fresh new directions and venturing further away from the safe harbours of going into holes in the ground, killing the things that live there and emerging richer than before. But the hell with what I planned – Gary helped dredge those metaphorical harbours, and on any exploration of where the hobby is going, it’s worth acknowledging where it came from as well.

So, while I think it’s fair to say that what I think is interesting, fun and important when it comes to a roleplaying game session differs markedly from much of what Mr Gygax long espoused, there’s no denying the huge debt I owe him for his part in creating the social context which I expect to occupy for the rest of my life. The roleplaying hobby was emerging as an energetic mutant outgrowth of wargaming when I discovered it at the start of my teens in the early 80s. I’ve never quite managed to let it go in the intervening quarter of a century. In all that time, Gary Gygax was a semi-mythical figure of legendary stature, looming somewhere in the lofty heights of The Industry.

I never quite idolised Gygax the way a lot of gamers seem to. To me, his ideas about how roleplaying should happen were irritatingly pompous, and following his unsatisfactory advice invariably led to misunderstanding and conflicts. He was a tireless self-promoter who sometimes appeared to overstep the bounds in terms of what credit he could rightfully claim. Not to mention he drove me nuts with his habit of throwing the entire thesaurus at a written concept without giving any particular consideration to clarity (or accuracy, in some cases).

(Okay. Yes. Sometimes I do this. In my defense, I like to think I got the habit from shamelessly aping Douglas Adams’ writing style, not Gary Gygax’s. And shut up).

But to give him credit, he was a pioneer, an advocate and a grand old patriarch of roleplaying. He came across as a passionate hobbyist who was generous with his time, a truly relentless writer (I may not have liked all of his ideas, much less how he expressed them, but I give the man props for his admirable work ethic and productivity) and a gentleman to boot, all the moreso in his latter-day presence on the interwebs. He loved gaming, he loved writing, and he loved talking about what he loved, and he had no problems with sharing that enthusiasm with anyone who’d listen. And let us not forget his timelessly quotable contribution to Futurama: “Greetings, it’s a [rolls dice] pleasure to meet you!” Gotta love someone willing to have the complete piss taken out of him just for cartoon immortality.

Last night we took a session off from Emma’s Burning Freeport pirate game, with its character-driven play, its free-wheeling plot-light storyline and its frequent player-generated content – little of which would have accorded with Gygax’s roleplaying tastes – in favour of some old fashioned monster-bashing fun. It would have received the Gary stamp of approval, we thought, but even if not, he can rest pretty comfortably, knowing that something he helped build has grown vast and spread far and turned into something that has touched a lot of lives.

February 18, 2008

Ten great things in gaming that you neither know nor care about – Parts 1-2

Filed under: 10 things in gaming,Games,geekery,the interweb she provides — lexifab @ 3:34 pm

Anyone who’s read more than three consecutive Lexifab entries will be aware that I do as much roleplay gaming as my sparse time and limited energy for seeking opportunities and organising people will allow. With as much of the rest of my time as possible, I rather enjoy reading about what’s happening in the roleplaying world, which usually means America-with-a-side-order-of-Europe-and-the-faintest-of-dashes-of-cultural-backwaters-like-Australia. This usually involves trawling the depths of internet discussion groups, design journals and commentator’s blogs. Like virtually everything on the internet, these various resources are a jumble of useful information, infantile ego clashes, sinister misinformation, groundless speculation, boundless creative joy, idiotic misunderstandings, wilful ignorance, communal goodwill and vicious snark. Ah, what would I do without them?

I am conscious that, for whatever reason, not everyone has the time, patience or remotest interest in replicating my gaming research habits. And to be sure, to delve into discussion groups – on subjects such as “Stupidest person you ever gamed with” and “Why halflings are more offensive to Ukrainian gamers than gnomes” or arguments about whether the ultimate face on a d10s should read ‘0’, a ’10’ or a ’00’ on one face – is to risk rapid and traumatic loss of sanity. However, there are a few pearls out there at the moment that are worth dredging to the surface and flogging to the tourists, so to save you some trouble to which you almost certainly never conceived of going, I hereby present a handy list of the New Cool on Gaming, after the cut. If you don’t care, my next entry will no doubt be about babies or cricket. (Warning: this really is seriously long)

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