Wednesday, March 17, 2010

WARNING WARNING ... anti Hermit-nard rant!!

I want to introduce a term to the gaming vernacular ... don't forget you heard it here first! 
Hermit-Nard- Definition: Based on Grognard. A hermit-nard is someone who becomes stuck on an out of print game system and endlessly proclaims it as superior to all future game systems and any other form of game. They are irrational, dense, stupid and stubborn and have been known to suffer from delusions of being correct.
Grognard, which   is French for "grumbler".[1] It is not necessarily pejorative and is sometimes used as a compliment. Historically it meant a soldier in Napoleon's army, particularly a member of the Old Guard.[2] "Grognard" came to mean a veteran wargamer in the early 1970s.[3] It was first used by John Young, at that time an employee of SPI, and subsequently popularised by Strategy & Tactics magazine.
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Ok ... lately I've been reading many "classic" D&D game blogs and comments regarding posts on those blogs and I'm somewhat dismayed. I'm really honestly upset and displeased at how many grumpy old jerk gamers there are out there who just don't get it. They apparently have their nerd-beard gaming groups that have been gaming together for 30+ years and are basically gaming hermits who are entirely out of touch with gaming. (Also there are many dyed in the wool Grognards out there who DO get it and I'm following their blogs and really enjoy hearing what they have to say).

Do people realize that face to face gaming is under assault?? More than ever! Video games from the dreaded World of Warcrack to console gaming to other forms of PC gaming are siphoning off players and interest ... away from face to face gaming in all of its forms. SO being stupidly critical of gaming companies that are doing whatever they can to stay afloat in these tough times (not to mention these tough economic times) is just dumb. I got fired up about a post on one of these blogs from one of these gamer hermits living in a Gary Gygax world that never existed ... refusing to see reason and refusing to use logic. Its worse than the crazy right wing Palin fans or the Tea Party fools ... bah!! So this is a reply to those types of anti-4E people out there and those people who think old D&D is superior. Old D&D was great in its time and its fun to be nostalgic about those old games and even play them sometimes ... but they are not better. They do not do a better job of delivering RPG fun than many, many other newer systems INCLUDING 4E.

First I agree that classic D&D from White Box to 2nd edition are just that "classics" and those games deserve some reverence and nostalgia. Does 3.0 and 3.5 ... no ... not now ... maybe in 5 or 10 years time and besides Pathfinder is still being supported so there is an outlet for people who actually like 3.5 and think its worth playing (more power to you ... I don't but if it floats your boat have fun).  My own gaming groups have all come to the conclusion collectively that if you have a good group and GM/DM ... you don't even need rules. You can just sit and collectively weave an interactive story. One could sit cross legged in a circle with other players ... passing the water pipe ... incense burning in the background ... seeking RPG nirvana. Yet with our busy lives, variable quality of players and GM/DMs that rarely happens. What you often end up with is a DM who doesn't have enough time to give you nirvana and players who are either nubs, or are unemployed and stressed out or going through a divorce or just jerks ... and people don't bring 100% of what they can to the table. So you need rules and systems that  in spite of all that facilitate reasonably fun gameplay and weave cool and interesting authentic feeling storylines that the group enjoys. That is what an RPG should do.

Talk to game designers and people who aren't afraid to try other systems and really get into the nuts and bolts of game design elements. Guys like John Wick, Monte Cooke, Jared Sorensen, etc. etc. Any of them will tell you there is a world of RPGing out there and I'm not talking about 4E. Games like Spirit of the Century, Dogs in the Vineyard, Savage Worlds, Houses of the Blooded, Sorcerer, In a Wicked Age, Burning Wheel, Mouseguard, etc. that are new and fresh and cool. Don't get me wrong I've been playing D&D since around 1984ish and before people jump around with oh well I actually inspired Gary Gygax to create D&D ... I don't care!  I didn't make that statement as a brag ... I'm sure many of you are older and more Grognardian than I am ... just saying I've been playing for more than a few years and I haven't been afraid to jump right in on new types of games. I see that there is a segment of the "classic" D&D fans out there who are  acting like cranky old farts who don't care about the continuation or growth of the hobby of role playing. They choose to bury their heads in the sand and rant and rave about anything new. To me that is as distrubing as the people who won't pry their nearly cold dead fingers off of WoW.

New products with new approaches bring in new players ... period. I don't like WoW it is a drain on the gaming community in general ... I have to admit I've played hardcore though in the past. I play 4E but I also play 3.5 and occasionally 2nd and even 1st Ed D&D. 4E has an appeal for new players ... I'm 35 ... been there done that with every version of D&D since 1st (Basic, 2nd, 3.0., 3.5). I own a small used bookstores worth of stuff from TSR to White Wolf to Hogshead (GW), etc. etc. and have a nostalgia for the classic stuff. Yet I am not a hater of new products that bring new younger players into the hobby. I want to be playing RPGs when I'm 80 and I like playing with a diverse group ... I agree WoW is evil but I think its really stupid to say 4E is as bad as WoW. Its idiotic in fact. 4E is a pen and paper face to face RPGing ... PERIOD. Once you get people to love pen and paper RPGs and get it into their blood ... you have a new RPG fan. Many of them will inevitably seek out other RPGs and learn about the history of D&D and maybe one day they'll turn in up one of your 1st ed games. How can an 18 year old who doesn't have a parent or relative who raised them on D&D be expected to automatically find some old out of print game and immediately declare it superior??? You think they are going to take some cranky old guys word for it?? I doubt it. This rational is like being a fan of classic cars from the 50s or 60s and being angry at any new car ... your justified in your belief in your own mind ... but your very unrealistic. 4E is here to stay and its been popular, its bringing new players to the game and providing existing D&D fans with continued entertainment via a PEN AND PAPER RPG ... therefor .. love it or hate it ... you need to learn to deal with it and accept that it will not go away. I think that many of the people out there bashing and hating would be better served in seeking the best revenge and that is to lead by example. Talk about the old games and what is good about them, don't tear down, don't hate, don't rant. Keep what you love alive. I like reading blogs that do that ... I'm not a fan of the endless D&D vs. 4E ranting ... its pointless.

There was a time when I loved GURPS and RIFTS and Shadowrun and 3.5 D&D. I loved big robust simulator games that "could do anything" ... and had a complex detailed rule for every occasion. Back when I was in my early 20s ... wasn't married ... didn't have kids ... and had a gaming group that wanted and could handle games like that. Now that I'm 35, married, 4 kids, big mortgage, car payments, stressful work, yada yada ... I find myself wanting fun, light, low DM prep, low player prep (i.e. you don't need an IQ of 160 and committed study time to learn the rules), etc. So I now find myself having most fun with Savage Worlds and some of the FATE system mod ups. Yet I still play D&D in whatever form I can get a group together in. Finding people who want to play 1st edition D&D on a continual basis in my area has been a non-starter ... new players don't like Thaco, they don't get negative AC ... and old modules have a sometimes kooky, crazy ecology that one has to appreciate in order to get.  I own everything I'd ever need to run said game ... also for 2nd and basic if there was a desire ... yet I never have any takers. So I play what I can get and I have played and currently am playing 4E. I find that most of the critics who refuse to play 4E and thus have no idea what they are talking about. Most of the 4E haters draw their criticisms mainly from their reading of other grumpy, smug people who also haven't really played. Its easy to tear down systems ... every version has its flaws. Is 4E the best D&D ever? No. Is it so bad its unplayable. No. Is it WoW on paper. It can be ... but then again its all in how the DM runs their game. Is it enjoyable and does it provide great hack and slash type RPGing. Yes ... again if run properly. Is it the death of all life on earth? No. I'd argue that it is bringing new players to RPGing and therefor it isn't all bad. Am I selling all my other RPG stuff and going all in on 4E? No. I still own all my classic stuff and hope to get all that out from time to time too. I also actually like Savage Worlds and Spirit of the Century tremendously (even more than any version of D&D ... GASP ...) and try to play those whenever I can.

I anticipate that there will be a 5E sometime in the next five or so years and people will hate it too ... and others will love it ... and new people will try it. I will be playing RPGs then I hope and I'll probably try 5E too. What I will then do is take the 5E players (like I have with 4E) and get them to try stuff like Savage Worlds ... then maybe do a one shot of Tunnels and Trolls ... then run one of the cleaned up versions of 1st ed D&D.

My current gaming groups have players in them from a player who is nearly 70 to 18 and 19 year olds. I have four kids that I do modified RPGing with basically I give them 3 stats, Smarts, Strength and Personality and run fairytale type adventures more akin to choose your own adventure books than D&D. There are actually systems out there tailor made for young players that I have looked into but haven't picked up yet.

To me the bottom line is players and DMs can flame and swear and rant about the "evil" companies that are making money from gaming (OMG how dare they!!) ... and as someone whose personal politics are something along the lines of Socialist-Anarchist ... I hear ya! Power to the people!! Yet ... as a greedy gamer who likes new shiny stuff and who likes to have lots of different people to game with ... I support companies like WotC in their continued efforts to attract new players to role playing games. I'm also a mini game fan (GW mainly) and a board game fan. Game companies like Games Workshop, Fantasy Flight Games and Privateer Press are engaging in many of the same practices that WotC are and that is bad and good. To me any efforts to pry people away from WoW ... to ANY type of face to face gaming ... is good and I will do what I can to support such efforts. This same argument can be applied to the GW games ... you hear the same stuff with 4E 40K fans vs. 5th ed. etc. etc. and its the same situation ... ANYTHING that keeps new players coming to the hobbies we know and love should be applauded and supported ... if you really like older games ... fine get a group together and do that on the side ... but don't smack new people over the head and drive them away from the hobby!!
Besides people your never going to find large numbers of non-European gamer girls who are going to play 1st edition D&D!! FFS!!! If you want the % of female gamers to increase you have to have new systems that cater more to their interests!!


Cawshis Clay said...

You warned me that it was a rant, but I read it anyways. Boy. Am I glad I did!

Preach it, brother! Hermit-nards are entirely infuriating. Not just because they refuse to try anything new...but also cause they feel the absurd need to compare! Like 2 different groups playing 2 different games is a bad thing!

Join the TT game revolution! Via la' gaming! *raises fist*

Dungeonmum said...

I agree that edition wars are pointless and anything's better than world of warcrack, but IMO newer doesn't necessarily mean better. It's like a band, their last album isn't necessarily better than their first, it's just a matter of taste.

As for female players and older editions, I've just rustled up a cheap post linked to your heartfelt rant :-)

The Lord of Excess said...

Thanks for the post :) I also agree with both of you ... to me the bottom line is play what you like but don't bash what other people like. I do agree newer isn't better ... on all fronts ... but 4E is really nice for brand new people to RPGs and that in my opinion is not at all a bad thing. I won't rehash my whole post but really that is the essence of what I like about 4E. Its clean, quick and still provides fun hack and slash. For a brand new player that is great. If your a seasoned veteran of RPGs that might not be your cup of tea though ... and that is cool with me.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the following: No good can come from edition bashing. Neither will it endear anyone to those who espouse it for their 'cause'. Unfortunately, it will never end (human nature being the silly thing it is).

"New products with new approaches bring in new players ... period."

Umm...putting 'period' on the end doesn't make this true. New products can just as easily LOSE players if it alienates it's potential customer. Further an existing customer is an order of magnitude greater than a hypothetical new customer as far as future cash flow predictability for a business.

I'm not saying that 3e/4e are such a product. It just wasn't for me. This means WOTC does not receive any more of my gaming dollars. I do not like their green eggs and ham. Others may, good for them. In any event, I was still able to gather 5 players aged 12-55 to play my preferred edition. The publishers who create material that cater to my taste will EARN my hard-earned dollar regardless of edition. We vote with our wallets. This is capitalism, the great bane of those companies that are complacent, arrogant, lazy and uncreative. Well, except for Microsoft :p

Lastly, there is a difference between the gaming industry and the hobby of gaming. The industry needs gamers in order to thrive. The reverse is not necessarily true.

The Lord of Excess said...

I agree with your sentiment ... and I never said my "rant" (which is what it was .. even by my own admission) would be to everyone's agreement or 100% vetted and writen to the standards of a supreme court landmark decision (though given some of them ... lol). Literally what your saying is true I won't mince words about the logic of using language like I did. What I will say is my statement regarding new products could be a huge post and really .. hell an entire blog dedicated to economics in gaming. That isn't what I was going for with that post. What I mean is that new Dungeons and Dragons products in a shiny new package ... really almost being marketed in a different way than it has been in the past ... will bring in new players. To me that is a good thing for the hobby ... regardless of any of our personal views on gaming. I really feel that the change from 3.5 to 4E ... while not to the liking of many existing players offered another option which is more new player friendly. Again regardless of anyone's personal preference (mine included). That was my point regarding the statement you have issue with. To me anyone who proclaims 4E as the ultimate system ... superior to all other D&D versions ... is wrong. But those who say 4E is crap and bad for the hobby are just as wrong and being just as short sighted.

The Lord of Excess said...

I agree about the gaming industry and the hobby of gaming not always being one in the same. However they are not entirely divorced from one an other. See I am from a mini gaming background as much as I am from an RPG background. With mini games if you want players ... there is a BIG undertaking and level of commitment people need to make. They need to spend alot of money (generally ... again always exceptions) and buy an army assemble it and hopefully paint it. If your somewhere that isn't a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis of mini gaming ... this can be rough. So if your an organizer type who is always trying to increase the size of the flock ... you start to get sensitive and/or paranoid about doing things locally to keep the games you love alive. I've sensed a much different feeling with many RPG fans. I mean you only need to get 5 people together right? Well to me I see things differently (also I've moved from one area to another recently and had to rebuild my gaming group, etc.) I see anything that gets people who never experienced role playing games to try them out ... as a good thing. Again I'm not challenging or debating 4E vs. whatever. For one thing I've been super happy that Pathfinder continues to support 3.5. I'm sure there are people out there who hate it too (I don't ... I think the setting is really cool for one thing) ... but its been really interesting to see. Also I'm a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game fan ... I've seen the same thing happen with that system. 2nd edition of that game was awesome .. I loved it ... and the feelings of players who were playing the game strongly opposed the move to 3E. That said I bought 3E and have been preping it for play in my own gaming group. I'm not sure if anyone out there has looked at that game ... but if so ... imagine if WOTC changed D&D so you needed to buy their proprietary dice and cards, etc. I just roll with the changes and as you say I vote with my wallet ... but lately I've started to wonder what the future of the games we love will be if more and more of the cool experienced gamers start voluntarily disengaging themselves from the larger community. Again I'm not talking about just the internet ... I'm talking about all of our local gaming communities. I feel being an angry hermit is a bad thing. The Basic Fantasist you get it and probably to a greater degree than even I do ... clearly you do ... my rant was just directed at many of those folks out there who are militantly angry at a version of any game. Whether 4E, WHFRP 3E or 5th Edition 40K ... I've just seen and heard so many people lately ... tossing out sandbags and mine fields and drawing lines in the sand.