Category Archives: Legacy D&D

The Misogyny At The Core Of Our Hobby

I consider myself a tabletop roleplaying games fan. I have enjoyed playing RPGs for most of my life, I’ve run games myself for over 25 years and I have introduced quite a few people to the hobby. But unfortunately the roleplaying game hobby has its issues and we all need to acknowledge that there has been a huge problem with misogyny and racism especially in its early days but still to this day.

A recent Twitter post dragged the topic back into the public’s eye. It featured screenshots of two posts, one written by Gary Gygax and the other by Jonathan Tweet. As we all well know Gary Gygax is considered as one of the fathers of our hobby, while Jonathan Tweet is well known for his work on D&D 3rd Edition, 13th Age, and Over The Edge. Especially 3rd Edition and OTE had definitely quite an impact on the hobby today.

Let’s unpack Mr. Gygax’ post first. He gave his thoughts on why tabletop roleplaying games were male-dominated in the early days and his conclusion was that “most females do not play RPGs because of a difference in brain functions”. Oh boy! He also mused that it was a waste of time and effort to attempt to write games which included women as a target audience. Discussing the neuroscience behind Gygax’ claims would be well beyond the scope of this post. Let’s just say that roleplaying games are nowadays enjoyed by people of all genders. Sure, there are probably still more male RPG fans but that’s probably because people like Gygax never even bothered to see women as a target audience.

In a way it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe women just don’t enjoy a certain kind of games and then tailor your game towards a young male audience, it’s unsurprising if female gamers are not particularly interested in your product. But the best proof that Gygax’ assumption was wrong is that despite all the issues D&D had, it was still enjoyed by many female gamers. So he was obviously wrong and misogynist. Heck, the more I read about Mr. Gygax the more I get the impression he was not a very nice person. So why should we care?

For one I think uncritical praise of people like Gary Gygax is wrong. You can appreciate what he has done for the hobby even while acknowledging what he did wrong. The other thing is that a lot of his weird ideas on women (and race for that matter) made it into the game. In the process of modernizing D&D Wizards of the Coast would be well-advised to put particular care into making sure that these elements are removed.

Unfortunately some of the people who later worked on D&D shared some of Gygax ideas. Jonathan Tweet is such an example. Over the last few years he has made several racist and misogynist remarks which caused quite a turmoil especially among fans of 13th Age, a game which he designed together with Rob Heinsoo. A quote by Mr. Tweet is included in the screenshot below.

He posted these lines on his blog on Gleemax (WotC’s now defunct social site for gamers) back in 2008. I find it particularly interesting that both Gygax and Tweet mention LARP in a derogatory manner. I also find the “quality of gamer men” remark ridiculous and offensive, especially since he makes the allegation that female gamers are actually more interested in “good-looking guys” than the games themselves, which is pretty close to this whole “fake gamer girl” bullshit.

Over the last few years I have realized that looking up to “industry luminaries” is often a terrible idea. More often than not our “heroes” turn out to be terrible people. Even worse their often harmful ideologies make it into the games they created which make it hard to separate the art from the artist.

One last thing: I’ve disabled the comment feature under this post. If you want to discuss it, feel free to get in touch with me via social media.

A Look At Old-School Essentials

Let me start by giving you some context. Even though I have enjoyed the roleplaying game hobby for almost 30 years now, I started playing at an older age than most of you. I was 16 when I first played in a TORG convention game in 1992. Shortly after that I was finally allowed to join a friend’s Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign, which lasted a couple of years and ended with our party saving the Empire from utter destruction! Even though I was aware of D&D at this time, I did only play it a few times. And – oh boy – I really didn’t like the AD&D 2nd Edition rules which were popular back then. I found the rules too restricting, and just plain weird. I still played it if I got the chance because everything aside from the rules was fun and I had the chance to spend some time with cool people.

Back then I didn’t know much about the history of the game, neither was I aware of Basic D&D. D&D 3rd Edition which came out a few years later was more to my liking and we played it quite extensively. But over the years my interest in rules-heavy games plummeted. It was somewhere in the 2010s when I first read blog posts about the Old School Renaissance (or whatever you want to call it) on the RPG Bloggers Network I had joined in 2008. As far as I remember I was pretty skeptical at first, but when I eventually looked closer into these “retro clones” I found something which I didn’t know I have been looking for all this time.

Old-school D&D had all the elements I liked in the D&D editions I played so far, but it was much more rules-light. The kind of gameplay it supported was also something I found intriguing. Eventually I started my long search for the “perfect” retro-clone (I know, there’s no such thing). I played Lamentations of the Flame Princess several times and it came pretty close to what I was looking for. I enjoyed the artwork associated with this game and some of the changes to the rules compared to the edition of D&D it emulated just felt right to me. Unfortunately the guy behind the game is not someone I want to support, so I looked for alternatives.

Over the years I have read basically everything OSR-ish I could get my hands on. There are some pretty popular games inspired by old-school D&D without trying to emulate the original rules which just didn’t click with me. Especially Index Card RPG is a game I really enjoy reading but I just can’t make it work at the game table. A game that almost worked perfectly for me was Swords & Wizardry Whitebox. It was simple and very easy to hack. But you know me, I kept hunting after my personal “white whale”, the perfect retro-clone.

Eventually I heard about Old-School Essentials by Necrotic Gnome. People all over the internet talked about it as if it was the best thing since sliced bread. At first I was seriously underwhelmed when I read it was trying to emulate the B/X edition of D&D perfectly. What I didn’t realize was that the author, Gavin Norman, rewrote it from scratch, so that the rules are much, much easier to understand, made some minor fixes, and added some optional rules like THAC0 or Ascending Armor Class.
But what really sets OSE apart is its layout. To call it perfect would almost be an understatement.

Continue reading A Look At Old-School Essentials

Lazy Friday Video Post – Adam Koebel's First Look At Bastionland

Yesterday I watched Adam Koebel’s (of Dungeon World fame) video about Chris McDowall’s Electric Bastionland which is currently being kickstarted. Even though I was already quite excited about the game, I couldn’t help but smile while watching the video. Adam Koebel’s excitement for the game is quite palpable and very contagious. It was a joy seeing him discover all the quirky ideas and brilliant concepts.

Even though I’ve already seen various playtest versions of the game, I hadn’t seen all “failed careers” yet – and they are brilliant! If you are still unsure whether Bastionland is for you, I highly recommend watching the video, which I embedded into this post. Enjoy!