Thursday, June 12, 2008

I Hate Fun

(see also the May 12, 2009 look back: I Hate Fun - One Year Later)

I hate what I like.


I like cookies and McDonald’s and chocolate. I like Godzilla movies and all those fucking direct-to-video horror movies that only an idiot would look at and think, “Gee, let’s rent this!” I like sitting at the computer for hours on end playing Civilization IV.

It’s shit. It’s all shit. It doesn’t enrich my life in any way, but it does turn my brain off, quickly, conveniently, easily, cheaply. No effort. What it all does is separate myself from living life and reduces it to passing time. It distracts me and detaches me from the only thing I have – life - and therefore it is no good. Instead of doing, and being, all too often I am seeking sensory stimulation. Artificial feelings, stimulated most effectively through passively consuming things that other people have done.

The very idea of wanting to be entertained is an exercise in self-nullification.

I want more. I want that doing, I want that being, and I want it in a way that gives my life significance. I want engagement in the things I do, and I want meaning in the things I engage with. I want all the feelings that entertainment artificially instills in me, but I want them to be genuine.

Engagement and meaning is commonly attributed to those terrible things known as other people.

I can’t socialize. I won’t. It’s embarrassing enough to know that I waste substantial periods of my life seeking and accepting entertainment, being mentally comatose instead of being active and involved in my own life. How am I supposed to be exposed to other people behaving this way and have a shred of respect for them? I want to just shake them. “We are real people, we are together! We don’t have to be alone, dead in mind, vacant in spirit! We should do, we should create! Support each other in our times of weakness and make our mark in the world, for we are Human!”

But no. Much of our interactions with others is simply wasting more time, being entertained, sometimes being entertained by discussing entertainment which has been previously experienced. Maybe everybody even gets entertained together, focusing their attention on some thing while under the impression that they’re spending time with someone else. Nobody really discusses anything, nobody explores ideas together, nobody fucking does anything in their spare time with each other. Individual pools of waste are flooded by entertainment to become great lakes of worthlessness.

The problem is made all the more frustrating by the fact that people realize this. They know they are watching crap, but they watch it “because nothing else is on.” They know that eating another bag of potato chips is against their best interest and could even contribute to the ending of their lives, but those things just tastes so good, don’t they?

People settle for garbage because it is convenient to do so and we have all been trained to think that “effort” is “work,” and “work” should be reserved for those times when you’re laboring for the benefit of someone else in order to collect your paycheck. Work and effort outside of employment is a waste of time, so relax, sit back, and passively consume entertainment – you deserve it after all of that hard work you’ve done!

People have convinced themselves that they have no time. Today’s lifestyle is busy, on-the-go, so today’s entertainment had better be as fast-paced and compact as possible to deal with it!

This cycle of disempowerment and uselessness has crept into every facet of society, and it is no good. Change is constant in life, but not all change is progress. For all of the pressure placed on people, the final responsibility for their lives is theirs alone. Being influenced by others is a choice that is made. And rising above all of the negative, defeating influences is a choice to be made as well.

Deny passive entertainment. Demand to be engaged, enriched, and fulfilled by your hobbies and by the people you choose to associate with.

Reject convenience for convenience’s sake. It is all good and well to do things for yourself faster and better. It is no good to hand the doing over to somebody or something else so you are no longer putting in the effort at all. Know the difference and what it means to your life.

***

I wrote that about a year ago for the introduction of the next (and still unreleased… *sigh*) issue of the LotFP metal mag. I went on to describe how this mentality was killing the heavy metal spirit within the heavy metal scene as it once again rose to mainstream prominence. It also expresses a lot of my frustration with life, having all this energy and free time and want to do something but only able to find people who are being passive; the doers seem to have better people to be around already.

Throwing my hat into the “writing about RPGs” ring last month, I had a bit of a revelation… with metal, I was writing about something that I discovered after leaving high school, and had no ability to actually participate in – I was an observer, and a listener, and my writing was a means to be active within the scene. With RPGs, I can perform the core activity I’m writing about, and I’ve been doing so since I was eight years old. A quarter of a century. I’m much more qualified for this (not that I won’t stop writing about that).

And thinking about some blogging subjects, I came back to this old intro. It applies to RPGs just as much, if not more, as it does to music.

People want to be entertained by their role-playing, people want to sit down and get what they want out of it every time, and they want it quickly. They don’t want to work for it, and they don’t want to risk that it won’t happen when they try to play.

This is how I’ve come to interpret people when they use the word “fun” in relation to role-playing games. People wanting quick-fix, feel good entertainment exactly as they like it with as little effort as possible.

And I hate it.

Fun, in the context of RPG discussions, is like some Orwellian inversion of meaning (speaking of which, how big of an example of this is a certain internet forum's use of the word badwrongfun? It shuts down discussion and makes it clear that thinking that anything is important is foolish - no criticism or education allowed!). So much so, that I think that people who talk about "fun" in RPGs are destroying the hobby. Because fun ruins RPGs, much like it ruins everything else that requires time, imagination, and a fair bit of concentration.

Think about how often you see people on internet message boards talking about things which “get in the way of their fun.” What do they mean by that, really? Are they looking for the real satisfaction or the quick fix?

This is a particularly insightful read, talking about the “tyranny of fun” and how it cheapens role-playing games. It’s also why having an attitude of live and let live doesn’t work – those who demand everything easy and quickly will always outnumber those that don’t, and pretty soon a hobby that was custom-made for the studious and imaginative and thorough now belongs to an entirely different caste, while those of us that the hobby was created for are left on the fringes, told that we’re just not compatible with today’s gaming, and sometimes, even today’s life in general.

Fuck that. Fuck that. This hobby is ours. These other types can come and play and we’ll welcome them with open arms and show them the way if they ask, but to dictate fast-food mentality in my imaginative tools… that means war.

“Tyranny of fun” nails it – role-playing companies, in their doomed efforts in ignoring the anomalous nature of role-playing’s mainstream popularity of the 80s, target the type of people that aren’t well-suited for role-playing to buy their products. Because lets face it… it takes a certain something odd to be a real role-player. “Nerd” and “geek” and such are not terms of endearment, they are insults, but they do prove the point that we’re not normal everyday types. Now being different (or even abnormal) isn’t a negative thing – don’t confuse it with the mythical catpissman or lawncrapper – as it doesn’t preclude us from having a job, friends, and girlfriends (before we complain that I’m being sexist by assuming most gamers are male… first, fucking duh, of course we are - look at the source material, and second, what gamer girl ever had a problem finding a social group to fit into?). But pretending we’re normal and just anyone can pick up this hobby and enjoy it, without making wholesale changes to it, is simply nonsense.

Yeah, that sounds elitist, and it’s meant to. Elitism is not a bad thing, especially when it comes to something that you can choose to do, or not. Anyone can choose to role-play, but not so many are willing to explore the source material of role-playing and not many are willing to really immerse themselves in the game experience. Their choice, and pretending they’re the same as the people who really get serious about this stuff is just insane. I proclaim role-playing to be something based on its origins, and that no matter how things have changed –

Stop right there! Tangent time!

Never let anyone say that the game has “evolved.” It hasn’t. Ever. Maybe the way you play it has evolved, maybe, but the game itself hasn’t. You could say it evolved if you took the same book from the shelf and suddenly a rule was mysteriously different here and there, more and more, as the years go by. That doesn’t happen. The game is changed, intentionally, for better or worse. Changed, by people doing the changing. It’s not an accident, it’s not an evolution. It didn’t have to happen. It’s willful alteration.

Got that? Don’t let people get away with the “evolved” line. Always confront and correct. Sure, you’ll be seen as an asshole if you do, but it seems to me that it is better to be an asshole for challenging this wording than it is to passively accept being sort of genetic throwback Neanderthal freak since you haven’t kept up with the “evolution.”

Not evolution. “Intelligent” design.

Back to your previously scheduled rant:

– the best role-players are the ones that take it seriously, make it important in their lives, and give it their all. People who do this are the most important part of any hobby. You want to be a casual gamer? Fine. But don’t expect the same level of deference and respect that a lifer is going to get. Those who take their activities seriously are the only ones who matter.

But in reality, people who take things seriously and who actually become knowledgeable and who actually expect newcomers to respect tradition and who expect newcomers to actually learn something and who discourage equal treatment for every dumb shit that falls off the turnip truck… they are insulted by the turnip truckers. Peer pressure is important and there are a whole lot more dumb shit fun-seekers who balk at the idea of “fun” being related to “effort” and “investment of time” than there are people who want to learn and be immersed in their hobby as a whole, not just while they’re goofing off with some pals on a Saturday night. And companies want to be successful. They don’t realize that industries built on hobbies, especially this one, are fucked. It’s not a respect issue. Role-playing is done from the ground up, not from the top down, that’s how it started, and that’s how it exists. You know the argument, “Oh, if only RPGs were respected, then they’d generate a lot of money for the people that make them and all our products would be better!” How do you gain the respect? Marginalize and hide the people that take RPGs seriously. They’ll turn off the “normals” who would spend the serious money.

How do you nudge out the lifers and encourage more casual play? Absolute balance. Be able to participate equally in all ways, right out of the box. By making sure that there are plenty of hard and fast rules to master, instead of dealing with nebulous, ill-defined guidelines that make a human being, the referee, the final arbiter of a game. Rules, people can understand. Like chess! The closer you get to true shared imagined space, the more the man on the street freaks out and rejects, and the more companies see imaginary “what if” dollars going elsewhere. Also, you entice more casual play by having less harsh consequences in a game. You get the elimination of save-or-die, or level drains, or equipment destruction mechanics or creatures, because these could give a “negative experience” to those that believe that you “win” the game by always being successful.

It’s like these people don’t even know that “winning” in role-playing is done simply by enjoying the process of playing the game. Yeah, it’s more gratifying (dare I say “fun”) to succeed, but death and failure are hardcoded into the very essence of the game for a reason. It’s not the amusement park cheap thrill of simulated or illusionary danger… make a bad decision, rely on luck to get you by, and the danger smacks your character down.

But people out there have gotten the idea that if their precious imaginary equipment owned by their precious imaginary man is taken away from them, their fun has been sabotaged! And the game designers are listening.

The clue phone is ringing, and it’s a collect call for these fun-seekers: YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO LIKE IT. Goddamn, risk and challenge and failure are as much part of role-playing as prancing around like Errol Flynn… er, sorry, Legolas (sorry, wouldn’t want to make a reference that the average modern person wouldn’t know off the top of their head) or something. Shit out there is trying to KILL YOU and there are critters out there that will fuck you up but good if you’re unlucky or not careful.

What part of, “The giant spider bites you… oh, you blew your save… roll up a new character!” is supposed to be fun or heroic? Obviously the game was built on a different type of satisfaction. But these people don’t want to spend their time figuring out challenges (that’s part of that large percentage of “not-fun” time that’s being had in the average session of old-fogey D&D, right?), they want to charge right in. They must, if they’re always getting their shit rusted, or their levels drained, or poisoned, or what have you. If they’re not getting nicked by these things, they wouldn’t complain, right?

The point isn’t to make role-playing some sort of masochistic experience where it’s all suffering and death and pain and failure. The point is, if all these things are real and present dangers, then success means more. And I think it’s telling that so many people reject this idea. Assigning value to in-game success seems to be something embarrassing to a lot of people, like a RPG is just supposed to be some interchangeable entertainment option to play with friends alongside a console system or Scrabble or watching a movie, with no worth or value in and of itself. I’ve already given my thoughts on this. Nothing beyond the barest essentials of life (food and water) has inherent meaning. Meaning is given to things and experiences by people. And assigning meaning to role-playing is not something to be ashamed of! It is a social game that strengthens social bonds, it exercises the imagination and encourages reading and knowledge and it is not a passive experience and nothing in the experience is just handed to you.

Take the introduction to Mentzer’s Basic Set. It is the finest introduction for D&D that was ever penned, explaining the basics of everything from classes and their abilities to combat in just seven pages – of storyform prose, not rules blather. And the first-time D&D player has an 80% chance to fail that saving throw against Bargle’s spell. An 80% chance of losing. Aleena dies. You can’t save her. You must run from the ghouls or you die. Some would say that traditional Dungeons and Dragons was poorly designed because first level characters were weak and that there was an uneven playing experience. It never seems to occur to these people that traditional Dungeons and Dragons was designed perfectly and that play experience was intentional. Mentzer’s introduction shows what Dungeons and Dragons is all about, and it’s not flashy heroism. It was never about that until Gygax was removed.

You’re not playing a game pretending to navigate your playing piece (called “a character”) through some story where you get to be the hero! You are using the rules to pretend to be someone and experience and react as that person would through a dangerous world. Nothing more, and nothing less. If you want to be the hero… then you get to try. To guarantee success is to defeat the entire purpose of role-playing.

Some will try to say that “Each edition of D&D is based on the common fantasy tropes of the time it was released.” That’s just ignorant bullshit. Dungeons and Dragons was built on classic archetypes (with some game elements added on) and literature that was decades, in some cases almost a century, old by the time Dungeons and Dragons came around. It was built to be timeless, not timely. And some of the more important influences, say Leiber and Lovecraft, certainly didn’t feature success as a common theme. And it certainly wasn’t all honor and glory, what with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and Conan and Cugel being thieves (and worse as far as Conan is concerned). Yet the focus wasn’t limited – there was still the influence of Tolkien and Poul Anderson and Lord Dunsany for the more positive, and even dreamier sides of fantasy. You could do it all with Dungeons and Dragons, back in the day. Nothing was excluded. And this is what Dungeons and Dragons was, focused through rules that sprung out of the wargaming culture.

As the game was altered through the years, this was lost. I don’t know why it was decided that games sold in the form of number-filled books with fancy vocabulary would appeal more to people that didn’t care to actually read literature, but that’s what happened. Real choice in the manner of game play was lost, or at least obscured and made more difficult to achieve, all the while increasing the options for individual characters… That was a great trick, giving players the illusion of more choice and increasing the detail and complexity of the rules while slapping the handcuffs on the game itself. Brilliant. Fuckers.

But while Gygaxian D&D was forged from classic stories, with the perfect capacity to deal with the current fads (and that’s where Tolkien comes into D&D, as a secondary “hip” source to lure the kiddies in, not as a core component), the next generation of clueless imbeciles decided to tell us what D&D was all about. It inevitably led, as did most fantasy fiction, to using Tolkien as the core. Grand quests. Heroics. And then it fed on itself. D&D became “literature,” which then influenced the game. D&D basically created most of the video game and personal computing industries (you think people at home were upgrading their computers to play the neat new version of Space Invaders, or were they wanting the sweet, sweet graphics from a particular version of Bard’s Tale?), which was easier to pick up and play with no investment of time or knowledge… and so then D&D took from that as well. If it was done to add to the current influences, maybe, maybe, it would have worked. But the new influences replaced the influences that created D&D, and what’s more the modern influences are seen as competition, so aren’t even explicitly mentioned. So D&D becomes more and more an ungrounded “adventure” game designed to be mindless entertainment, to only be taken seriously by the “professionals” who will lay out a specific path to “fun.”

It’s already been discussed to death how D&D has been retroactively described by its detractors as a hack and slash game, and how that description is dead wrong, as played by the people that created the damn game. We’ve seen how D&D increasingly makes the criticism come alive, making D&D more about encounters and carefully balanced tactical encounters than anything else, and we see that the same people who decried D&D as a hackfest now embrace it for being specifically built as a hackfest.

It is rather unfortunate that Dungeons and Dragons had the subtitle “Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures.” It’s a historical problem that the term “role-playing game” (or any other suitable term to differentiate it from the wargaming hobby that was still in full swing) wasn’t used, as role-playing wasn’t its own genre at the time. It certainly wasn’t a wargame in any real sense, and Gygax (at least – I don’t know about Arneson), co-creator and writer of the actual text, didn’t even use miniatures! But this is another example of the instant-gratification crowd these days. The problem isn’t that they don’t know, I have no problem with people who are simply new, the problem is the people who don’t care to know and become insulted when informed that their assumptions are dead fucking wrong. But it would be inconvenient to research all this shit, and why bother when possessing this knowledge will make you some sort of weirdo and doesn't support what you've already made up your mind to do?

It's a pain in the ass to deal with people who have a "been there, done that, and found it immature" attitude when they don't even know where there is or what that even entails. Fucking hell, it's like someone not wanting to visit China for the Olympics for fear of the fallout from the two atomic bombs that got dropped there during World War II.

It’s time to stand up, and it’s time to make some noise. It’s time to stand up and stop letting the lies about the origins of our game, which are the origins of the entire hobby, spread. It’s time to stop letting the people who have no intention of taking all of this seriously dictate terms and create the labels. I’m tired of it.

“Old D&D is for old people.” I’m 33 and I’m not even as old as Arneson or Gygax were when Dungeons and Dragons was originally released… and their target audience was people like them. But, lest you say “people in their thirties are old,” remember that Gygax ran the game, in its original, pre-published form, for his kids. Original D&D, while it encouraged (and almost demanded) source material reading, was itself not very much reading compared to what came after.

Kill the misconceptions and the falsehoods. Stop taking the abuse caused by the assumption that “current” D&D is the “real” D&D and that everything that came before is some sort of 8-track equivalent relic. Hasbro may have a legal claim to the “Dungeons and Dragons” name, but they certainly have no moral claim to it. A multinational corporation (who aren’t interested in the “game” as much as the “intellectual property” it affords) bought a smaller game company, none of whose founders are still with the company, who bought another game company, none of whose founders were still with the company, and in fact the creators of the game in question that started this chain were forced from that company at different points. Stop acting like we’re guests in their house when it’s the exact opposite. Stand up, and when people complain that we seem to not recognize their “alternate playstyle,” (especially when they sure as hell aren't recognizing our playstyles, and "you play your way and we'll play our way" is dismissal, not recognition) tell them they better learn what the fuck they’re talking about before they get to say anything.

And this isn't directed at the stupid or the willfully ignorant. It's not even directed at those that know what they are talking about, know their history, explored their options, and decided the new stuff is better for them. No. Their minds are made up. The purpose of standing up and making noise is for the silent crowd that watches from the sidelines. We need to make sure our game isn't defined by people who don't like it, we have to be visible and make noise so these people see the earlier versions of the game are being played and are perfectly viable options for them. We have to make sure they know there is a history and a legacy and a depth to this hobby which can be explored. That there is life in this hobby beyond the shiny new release, which is to be given up once the trademark overlords decide it has outlived its usefulness and decides to create an even shinier, newer release. The silent crowd should always be reminded that the "industry" can never dictate the possibilities at their game table. If we manage to enlighten those actively dancing in the shadows, then yay, but that's not really the point.

So go home, casual players, and take your “fun” with you. For those of you who gain enjoyment from a more involved experience, or at least the attempt at such… welcome. There is much to gain, from everything you ever do on this planet, by digging deeper, discovering traditions, and realizing there is a way that things can, and perhaps even should, be done that often do not coincide with the ways that give the easiest and quickest pleasure.

Oh what are you gonna do
When there's a part of you
That needs to run with the wind

And the fire of burning yesterdays
Can only light the way
To lead you from
The garden of the dark
Stay out of shadows

Now look like the change is on
Tomorrow's never gone
Today just never comes

Go on and jump, yeah
Into the hurricane
You will forget the pain
It's only there
To exorcise your mind

Looking at the world
When you've opened up your eyes
You've got to see the promises they've made
They're bloody lies and broken dreams
Your silence screams

You're living in a time machine
And you can choose just who you are
Someone that you've never seen
Somewhere you've never been
You're living in a time machine

Oh what are you gonna do
When every part of you
Just needs to catch the wind

And the fire of burning yesterdays
Can only light the way
To lead you from
The garden of the dark

Looking for the world
When you've opened up your eyes
You'll see you've got invisible chains
They're only lies
Not what it seems
I hear your silent screams

You're living in a time machine
Nobody cares just where you go
Taken where you've never been
Somewhere you don't know

You're living in a time machine
Why do you stay who you are
Be what you've never been
Someone you've never seen
You're living in a time machine
Yeah

“Time Machine” from Black Sabbath’s Dehumanizer

"4E is like hair metal! It's a gateway for some people to something of value." - Matt Johnsen

74 comments:

  1. Yeah! Testify, brother!

    Not much I can add to that, except that I'm sick of the D&D as plot mindset. Wandering, pointless, annoying monsters were fun! Precisely because they made no sense. Life doesn't make sense. Characters staggering through two thousand miles of wilderness because they were teleported to hell and gone does not need to make sense. They should have to WORK to get back...not dance their way back through a set of carefully designed hero quests intended to make them lords of some domain upon their return. They should return dirty, miserable, unhappy and ANGRY...

    In other words, having experienced something real.

    If it takes five runnings to cover that distance, so be it. I'm not frightened that my players will "get bored" if I don't suck up to their desire for more and more treasure. I'm not my player's lackey, I'm their fucking god...if they want power and wealth, then by ME there are going to be times when they have to suffer.

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  2. Excellent post. I see one contradiction, though. The silent people you seek to address? There's a lot of casual players in that lot. Weren't there more casual players in the hobby in eras past, not less?

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  3. I like where you are coming from and I too hate how the brand name D&D has been corrupted, but you cut to many people out of the loop when you insist that casual players can't enjoy original D&D. I am a casual player. Maybe I will change that in the near future, maybe not. But when I do play I play a game based on original style gaming rules. If you ever want to see a widespread revival of old style gaming you need to make room under the tent for us.

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  4. The silent people you seek to address? There's a lot of casual players in that lot. Weren't there more casual players in the hobby in eras past, not less?

    Isn't it their influence in times past that led us to where we are now?

    But the trick is to inspire the casual players of the silent majority to want to be more. Now I'm not going to be the one who does that, I'm way too ranty and pissy and not at all what anyone would want as the "face" of any movement... but if I can fire up people who can do that...

    I like where you are coming from and I too hate how the brand name D&D has been corrupted, but you cut to many people out of the loop when you insist that casual players can't enjoy original D&D.

    The problem isn't casual players enjoying D&D. I'm sure my upcoming game will have more casual players participating than not. But until they are making it a point themselves to explore this stuff instead of just showing up for a few hours every week, I don't think they'll get as much out of it. And I don't see how they'll positively add to the hobby. I just have to make my game kick so much ass that they won't accept anything less. :D

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  5. There's nothing of value I can add to the discussion, but I just have to say that this blog entry was incredible. Probably the most intelligent and articulate 'rant' I've ever read. I loved it.

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  6. Nice work man, and anyone who gets a Dehumanizer quote into an RPG post wins big points in my book.

    I especially like how you repeatedly mention the fantasy literature upon which the old games are based. It's no coincidence that the battered old copies of the 1E DMG and Moldvay Basic that I have sitting on my shelves devote a page each to inspirational reading. I think people would derive much more satisfaction from the old games if they at least made an effort to understood the classic stories of Poul Anderson, E.R. Eddison, Vance, Howard, etc, as the wellspring from which the rules flow. D&D is really its own animal, but by the same token it's much more suited to emulating pulp fantasy and the great tales spun by the likes of Fritz Leiber and Michael Moorcock. If players understood what the old rules sought to deliver, at least to some degree, I think there'd be less angst and more love for classic D&D.

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  7. Nice work man, and anyone who gets a Dehumanizer quote into an RPG post wins big points in my book.

    And it works on more than one level.

    There are the lyrics, which fit...

    But I got into metal (as in, MEETTAALLL!!! rather than thinking those Metallica videos on MTV were cool) in 1992... I came in with the death metal scene, Carcass and Entombed and Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse and the rest. It had already been around a few years but it was new to me. And as far as I was concerned, if it wasn't growly and new, it was shit!

    The same time I got into metal, I mean within a few weeks of my big discovery, Dehumanizer was released. And I distinctly remember being in a record store, looking at that cover (which should have thrilled me, right?) and thinking, "Who would buy this old man shit these days?"

    Felt fitting to the current rant.

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  8. I especially like how you repeatedly mention the fantasy literature upon which the old games are based.

    Credit James Maliszewski for cementing that in my mind. His talk about the source literature filled in the final blanks for me about the uneasiness I felt concerning new vs old D&D. It seems so obvious, especially since my connection to much of the source material is surely part of the reason why I embrace the traditional and reject the current, but my ability to articulate it properly (if this rant be "proper") just wasn't there until his writing became the key that unlocked that door...

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  9. I am with you with all you wrote. You can be sure.

    But all the way I am reading these posts on the many "old D&D" blogs around today - yours and grognardia and trollsmyth and so on - I am sitting in front of my monitor and thinking : "HOW?"

    HOW do we stand up and talk?
    HOW can I go to Enworld and talk to the people there to bring them the old way of D&D - when after two or three posts the thread derailed to things nothing to do with old D&D - ?
    HOW to write one and only one short and concise document to decribe the old D&D way?

    I don't really, really know.
    And this makes me very sad, as I _want_ - I am "burning" to do something - but the methods I don't know.

    :-((((((


    PS: As great as your posting is, but there is one critic I have to write here which also goes to the other blogs and their authors:
    Please, as great as the thinkings and philosophies are they don't tell us anything about HOW to get the next step, WHAT is needed.
    There should be at least some posts about this, so that people can then go and actively support.

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  10. To make the questions in my last posting above more clear:

    Do you want that we write more adventures for BFRPG/LL/OSRIC ?
    Do you want that we write more settings for BFRPG/LL/OSRIC ?
    Do you want that we speak about the old games in various forums where also 4E fans are around?
    What is it that we should do - to stand up - in your opinion?

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  11. Anonymous: I can't speak for Jim, of course, but Jim and I talk about this sort of thing all the time, if generally in the context of metal. I don't personally think you can ever turn back the clock on "classic" scenes. You'll never get WotC to retool the D&D rules to make them more like the old rules. You'll never get them to hew more closely to the olde-tyme literature that inspired Gygax and his buddies. And you'll never be able to stuff the MMORPG genie back in the bottle and undo his influence on tabletop games. That said, there will always be some people who are inspired to dig deeper, who are interested in cultivating a more sophisticated understanding of the game and its antecedents, and the best service you can do for these people is to keep the fire burning as well you can, even if in relative obscurity. Passion breeds passion, and I speak here from experience, as Jim's efforts have inspired ME to explore classic AD&D in a way I probably wouldn't have otherwise. When I was a kid in the 80s, I bought a LOT of 1E stuff. I read everything I could about AD&D. I might have been a role-model gamer... if only I ever played! I never knew anyone else who played, so eventually my interest waned. Finally, I loaned my books to a friend of my brother who shortly thereafter moved to another state and purloined all my AD&D materials. And so it was. That was at least 15 years ago. Now, I have used copies of most of the books I owned hurtling my way from the mysterious sources of eBay. I'm reading Leiber for the first time. And I'm considering, absurd as the notion is, taking up roleplaying as a new hobby in my middle 30s, and this madness is entirely owing to Jim's proselytizing passion. So, Anonymous, do what Jim does. Write about your hobby, create a welcoming environment for the curious, and encourage what interest you encounter. You'll never see GenCon coverage on MTV, you'll probably never see a Fahfrd and the Gray Mouser movie, and you'll even probably always have some difficulty finding a game, but you'll be rewarded nonetheless, in some small way, for your role in maintaining the continuity of a fascinating branch of the human experience.

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  12. The problem isn't casual players enjoying D&D. I'm sure my upcoming game will have more casual players participating than not. But until they are making it a point themselves to explore this stuff instead of just showing up for a few hours every week, I don't think they'll get as much out of it. And I don't see how they'll positively add to the hobby. I just have to make my game kick so much ass that they won't accept anything less. :D

    I think its a huge positive just to have people show up and play even if they don't care about the history of the revival movement. Isn't that what the end goal is, that people play the old games. That when you put a poster up advertising for players that people respond in good numbers.

    I fully understand that to get there we need people who do delve into the depths of OD&D (and I do believe we need to snatch that term out of the hands of the pre-AD&D players and give it to the group as a whole :) ). People who pour themselves into the quest and pull people in with them will make that difference, but not if we make the casual players feel as if they are unimportant or somehow not worthy to play the Grand Game.

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  13. Mr. Johnsen,

    Thank you for your elaborate answer.

    1) I will not write _about_ my hobby, but I will write _for_ my hobby - to support the hobby and the other authors who began with the development of the Simulacrum -. At this moment I am thinking about the best form to do this.
    I want to "develop" settings for all Simulacrum games. And these settings - I mean the rule books - will be free for everyone.
    Because of this I think we are on one line.

    2) Don't give up the dream that this big company can come in one day to the authors of BFRPG/LL/OSRIC to get them to write for WotC. I know that this can happen because I am also in a community which was laughed at some years ago but today many companies are at the house door ringing for help (Free Software).
    For this we should only take the path to bring the modern old D&D forms - Simulacrum - into modern media.

    3) I am having difficulty at this actual day to find a game and a group. So, I made a decision about my hobby so that I can continue without waiting for the time that I meet some people who want to play D&D: I will develop worlds and settings, complete with characters, heroes and anti-heroes, rules and so on.

    4) To play RPGs in the middle of your 30s is not absurd, if I may correct that. ;-))

    regards
    an anonymous reader

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  14. Do you want that we write more adventures for BFRPG/LL/OSRIC ?
    Do you want that we write more settings for BFRPG/LL/OSRIC ?
    Do you want that we speak about the old games in various forums where also 4E fans are around?
    What is it that we should do - to stand up - in your opinion?


    Publishing is good (whether free or in print) for giving the indication that the game is alive and an ongoing thing, so adventures and settings are always good. If they're actually good. :D

    As far as forum work, certainly correct misconceptions... but the fun thing to do...

    When a question is asked or a general comment is made without an edition being specified, answer according to old edition standards. Make people *label* their posts and recognize that the latest edition isn't the only one.

    Don't do this in specifically 4e (or 3e or whatever) forums. Do correct factual errors if you're tooling around there though.

    But the most important thing to do... is PLAY. If you're having problems finding a group, make one. Recruit non-gamers. I have an old blog post about this...

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  15. I gotta say it's probably one of the best arguments for the D&D of old that I've ever heard. It really did remind what I like about B/X D&D and what makes it a game near and dear to me.

    However elitism in the RPG world was, is, and always will be an utter crappy MO once it leaves your group and goes to places beyond. If you were only saying that you only want to game with folks who feel the way you do about it, than a Happy Gaming to you. But to believe the superiority of your gaming style is a platform to inflict conformity on all who roll dice is no worse than the most execrable screeds from guys like Ron Edwards or PRG Pundit. That is the real Tyranny of Fun.

    This isn't heart surgery or smashing atoms. To argue that over all of the versions of D&D that have seen print, to assert that they all have to be made and played with the same intent and goals, is baloney.

    Play your favorite flavor man, and play it with the gusto you can muster with like minded folks and I can guarantee a high and consistent level of awesome. But when it comes to the rest of the tables out there where other gamers congregate, let them play what they want and how they want it.

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  16. @jimlotfp :
    First, thank you for your answer.
    This made it clearer for me what you want.

    > ... so adventures and settings are always good. If they're actually good. :D

    You are right. To make the support of the OD&D effective the settings and adventures must be good or even very good. Because for example only good adventures are going to be downloaded _and_ played by Jow Random out there.

    I came to the conclusion that I can only write good settings and good adventures with the help of the community. The ideas I have but I need very good texts of descriptions in good English.

    > As far as forum work, certainly correct misconceptions... but the fun thing to do...

    If I understand you then you want that I - or also the other readers of your blog - go into forums and search for wrong understanding of the OD&D and coorect it.

    Ohh my, you know , if I would not have coincendetally heard of the announcement of 4E so that I had begun to lurk in various forums to read about what the people say about this whole thing then I would not know about the Simulacrum movement _and_ with this I would 'til today not know that there is a difference in play of OD&D and AD&D and (whatever version)D&D. And I began playing in the year '89. In the 90s I played in a longish AD&D Dragonlance campaign which lasted 2 to 3 years. But I never heard of the differences in the play styles in the various D&Ds.
    No, I am the last person who can help here.

    > When a question is asked or a general comment is made without an edition being specified, answer according to old edition standards.

    I will try as I learn more and more from Grognardia and other places.
    But my knowledge and with this my understanding is limited.

    > Make people *label* their posts and recognize that the latest edition isn't the only one.

    I don't know if I can do this in forums where I do not have the power to command to people - if you understand what I mean -.

    > But the most important thing to do... is PLAY. If you're having problems finding a group, make one. Recruit non-gamers. I have an old blog post about this..

    Yeah, I read your blog post. And I wanted to write a snarky comment about that. Not because of what you wrote was wrong. No, but it is in some places impossible to find people "with the right mind". Where I live there is even a registered association for Roleplayers founded by roleplayers. Very good, isn't it? The opinion of the people there about D&D: "Boardgame, and we don't play boardgames here". Do you really want that I continue? Believe me, it is impossible to find people here. So I "changed" my hobby to world building. (And as a side-comment: It is not possible to change the members - better their opnion - of the association because , you know, they know all things about RPGs and they long, long played all things and etc. etc.)

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  17. A somewhat off-topic question to all people who know "the way of OD&D" :

    Imagine someone buys the 4E books and in some forum reads that there is a "way of OD&D".
    How can he simulate with 4E the "way of OD&D" ? How can he play 4E in a way as the grognards play (whatever old version)D&D ?

    An answer to this would be great - especially if someone can explain it in some few (10 to 20) sentences - as we could go into 4E forums and post this explanation there.

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  18. Interesting-- I don't think your points are wrong, but I do disagree with you. Me, I play the more pretentious, story driven game. I've swapped from any of the DnD systems (after driving myself crazy with making house rules) to running a fantasy game with the World of Darkness Storyteller System. It works good for me-- I can make people actually worried about their characters, worried about the environment, that sort of thing, without having to resort to math.

    I do wish my players weren't so heartbroken when I made all their actions futile. Sorry, I Lovecrafted you guys!

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  19. For claiming to be so elite, it is kind of ironic that you are so very not.

    For instance, you try to call out people who claim the game has evolved, saying that it hasn't evolved at all. Unfortunately, this just shows how thick you are - you don't even know what evolution means. You seem to think it has something to do with biology. It doesn't. Biological evolution is a subtype of evolution, but it isn't evolution itself.

    All evolution means is change over time, and games have done exactly that. Their evolution is rather more memetic than anything else, and acts a lot more Mendilian than Darwinian (though there are certainly aspects of natural selection involved in the gaming market, with bad, unfun, unfit games dying off as their owners go out of business) but it is evolution nonetheless, and they change in response to pressures.

    Your denial also shows your intellectual inferiority. You deny the wargaming roots when in fact it HAS always been a wargame. There is nothing wrong with wargaming, and the reason it is everywhere is because it is an excellent and, dare I say, fun and intellectually stimulating way of representing combat.

    You also deny the fact that it was originally a heroic game. You claim it was not supposed to be heroic. You're wrong. It was. It just was poorly implemented. Your brain has it backwards; it was meant to be a heroic game, primarily, and it took them a while to implement a ruleset which correctly reflected that.

    It is always ironic when the elitists aren't truly members of the elite, but rather of the sea of garbage. You aren't special. You're part of that ocean.

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  20. Funny how critics don't sign their name.

    You also deny the fact that it was originally a heroic game. You claim it was not supposed to be heroic. You're wrong. It was. It just was poorly implemented. Your brain has it backwards; it was meant to be a heroic game, primarily, and it took them a while to implement a ruleset which correctly reflected that.

    Yeah, I suppose Gygax played his own game wrong for years until someone else showed him how he was supposed to do it.

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  21. I think the game was designed to be heroic... at higher levels, when you have earned the right to be a hero. Later iterations have amplified the power of low-level characters, until now when you get to be a hero from day one.

    Jim's right. It's too easy. The newest iterations of D&D have been lined with NERF so nobody actually gets hurt.

    Gary had the right idea. Make it tough. Kill a lot of low-level characters, and just enough higher-level types to make people understand that they were never safe. When, after many sessions, you found yourself in command of a powerful, heroic character, respected by all, well, that was a reward worth winning.

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  22. I really can't seem to get my mind around the level of nerd rage I see amongst 'grognards'. This is the new D&D which is different than the old. It is MODERN and RELEVANT to how RPGs outside of D&D handle things. I'm honestly surprized it took this long for WotC to manage to create a system that appeals to casual gamers, video game junkies and war gamers. You know, the people who like to sit down with friends and have fun as opposed to be told 'your elven fighter wouldn't do that' or be ragged on for complaining their starting hero is eliminated by a random orc. D&D thought is outside of the red box now. This 'I Hate Fun' blather reads to me like the rants of an old man who says modern music is just noise.

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  23. MODERN and RELEVANT

    Two words which have no place in any intelligent discussion about creative work.

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  24. ...their starting hero is eliminated by a random orc...

    Guess that PC wasn't a hero. Roll some new stats and try again. (Or give up and write a short story or a novel; with that route, there's no mean DM or not-fun rules to get in the way of the PC's predestined heroism...)

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  25. The problem isn't that WotC created a system that appeals to casual gamers, video game junkies and war gamers. The problem is that they dropped D&D game system and reused the name for this new system they created.

    Is like Chevy deciding to make a fuel efficient, electronics loaded SUV and slapping the name Corvette on it. Then telling all the people who make parts for old corvettes that they can't advertize that the parts are for corvettes.

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  26. Fucking hell, it's like someone not wanting to visit China for the Olympics for fear of the fallout from the two atomic bombs that got dropped there during World War II.

    The two atomic bombs were dropped on JAPAN. One on Hiroshima the other on Nagasaki. That ain't China.

    All I can say about your rant is that E. Gary Gygax himself said that people should play whatever game system they want that makes them happy. There are now enough choices out there for old-school players to 'get their grognard on' that its rather patently absurd to be raging about D&D no longer being OD&D/AD&D.

    Who cares whether someone plays 4th Edition, Castles & Crusades or OD&D? Its not affecting your game.

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  27. The two atomic bombs were dropped on JAPAN. One on Hiroshima the other on Nagasaki. That ain't China.

    No shit Sherlock. The China line was an example of saying something just as absurd as people who say that early D&D intended players to use miniatures when the guy that wrote the game didn't even use them.

    It's very distressing that people have been picking that line out and wondering if I know basic history. :P

    Who cares whether someone plays 4th Edition, Castles & Crusades or OD&D? Its not affecting your game.

    Bullshit. Every time I put up flyers advertising a new campaign, I always, always, get some fucking asshole that feels the need to lecture me about the "foolishness" of running an "out of date" version of the game, telling me it sucks and that I'll never find any players. This isn't "theoretical" internet posturing, this is direct person-to-person communication about the game I'm attempting to run. Is there a single traditional D&D player that finds out about a 3.x or 4e group that privately contacts one of those people to telling them they're fools?

    There are now enough choices out there for old-school players to 'get their grognard on' that its rather patently absurd to be raging about D&D no longer being OD&D/AD&D.

    When the choices are fairly represented by the fanbase and the RPG "media" as being equally viable, the rage will end. Previous editions of D&D aren't broken (except 3.x :P :P :P :P :P :P), and there is no reason on Planet Earth for them to be marginalized or for there to be a mass migration to whatever new version has come out.

    Not to mention it is downright sleazy to be releasing a game under the name "Dungeons and Dragons" that isn't compatible with previous editions, doesn't attempt to facilitate the same atmosphere in game play, doesn't have anything to do with its creators, and doesn't draw from the same inspirational wells that previous editions did.

    And it's downright malicious to take the entire open gaming movement (which was the shining positive legacy of the 3.x years) and not only decide to not continue with it, but attempt to cripple and kill the open gaming movement as it exists. Fucking hell, they're against the gaming hobby with that move.

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  28. Yeah, I suppose Gygax played his own game wrong for years until someone else showed him how he was supposed to do it.

    So, what, everyone should try and emulate Gygax every time they play? Shit, son, RPGs are DIY. Once enough people got involved in the game, it was going to mutate. You know, evolve–pieces get pushed out and other parts brought in to reflect environmental conditions. Gygax still played his shit, MAR Barker did too, but that doesn't mean that the brown box or whatever is the perfect guide to a platonic, hyper-meaningful experience.

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  29. So, what, everyone should try and emulate Gygax every time they play?

    No, but declaring that, "The game is about x," when the creators didn't play it that way, is complete bullshit. Change whatever you want, but if you play it that way, you're changing what the game, as created, is about.

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  30. Everyone plays a little different. I've had fun with every system I've played. Even the game systems that sucked; if the people I was playing with were fun.

    It's an eloquently and scholarly presented opinion however.

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  31. I enjoyed reading this piece, but I have difficulty getting mad about OD&D being a tiny niche in a niche pastime. I just don't *care* what the majority of gamers, or anyone else, does or plays or buys or thinks. Even if they wanted to play OD&D, I wouldn't want to play with most of them, and if they're the kind of person who denigrates your gaming preferences to your face, I definitely wouldn't want to play with them.

    If I continually got angry about the fact that most people enjoy things that I think are rubbish -- music, food, games, books -- I'd be angry all the time. I kind of *am* angry all the time, but not about people's poor taste in entertainment.

    I just think trying to reach the mainstream, even the mainstream of our weird little hobby, is pointless. Screw them. Who cares? I just do what I like and let them do what they like and don't invest much emotional energy in it. If they're interested in checking out what I'm into, we'll talk. :)

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  32. Someone once told me that games like yours are like beer--too much of either will give you a fat belly, no life and zero chance with the opposite sex. Games--as you still call them, despite your evident attempt to suck out any enjoyment the players (who ought to be called participants, really, because playing implies that dreaded fun)--should be fun, and when they cease to be you have a serious problem. My advice? cover yourself in hyperactive puppies for a few hours and try to recall when you weren't so bitter, greasy and angry at the world.

    Also I would like to propose a new term for your...scenerio-thing. Instead of 'role-playing', call it 'role-working' instead! Yes it sounds similar to prostitution, but isn't that the point?

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  33. Yet I haven't had any problems finding players that keep coming back these past few years, and the hobby had no problem growing from absolutely nothing with people that played very often, with a very unforgiving style.

    And I'm a cat man. Dogs... eek.

    And why do people keep saying things like "fat belly, no life and zero chance with the opposite sex"? Role-playing is a social hobby... if I have 3 or 6 or 9 people showing up every week... that's interaction... people I have something in common with... not sitting at home in the basement doing nothing.

    And I'm at a girl's house right now typing this during commercial breaks during House.

    (My whining in that Ropecon post had to do with the fact that the people that show up to games, and the people I go home with are never the same type of people. Damn it.)

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  34. See my alcohol analogy. Some people keep going back to that over and over and over again as well, and it's not good for them either. Nor is all the bitterness you seem to have about people who like fun. It just raises your blood pressure and screws with your internal chemistry. Gamews were made to to be enjoyed. If you're not going to have fun playing them--or let others have fun playing them--why bother?

    ...I see. Dare I even ask who you do end up going home with? Just curious.

    And the 'Fat, no life, no sex' thing is just the GM stereotype, the wild-eyed lardball who INSISTS EVERYONE PLAY HIS WAY OR THEY'RE RUINING THE GAME RAWWWWR!!! *Greasey choking on own flab and Cheetos-crumbs*

    That's just how nongamers see anyone who runs a game like yours.

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  35. >>If you're not going to have fun playing them--or let others have fun playing them--why bother?

    Satisfaction on a "job well done." Getting the most out of what I have chosen to do, and that means no shortcuts. And the way I see people's "fun" described, no matter how they get it, is that they take every shortcut to get the quick fix instead of settling in for the long haul and getting everything they can out of it.

    >>Dare I even ask who you do end up going home with? Just curious.

    "So, what do you want to do tonight?"

    "I don't know."

    "What do you usually do in your free time?"

    "I don't know, I hang out, watch TV. What do you do?"

    "Well, I do this, this, this, that, and some of that other thing, and I really want to try this and this but I'd rather not do that by myself."

    "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz"

    That type.

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  36. Firstly I love this post. I have to make a comment though to bring up the fact you have a dungeon master in any set of the D&D rules, and its this person who has to provide the content that is needed by the players. Yes its true that the new 4e is dumbed down and changed to a format that a WoW player may understand. This doesn't in my mind relieve the responsibility of the DM. I'm a 100% if its not fun, don't do it. with a view very similar to your own as to what fun inside D&D means. I have experienced just as rewarding a campaign with 3.5e as with 1st edition. 4e is still pending as we don't all have the books yet.

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  37. "Satisfaction on a "job well done." Getting the most out of what I have chosen to do, and that means no shortcuts. And the way I see people's "fun" described, no matter how they get it, is that they take every shortcut to get the quick fix instead of settling in for the long haul and getting everything they can out of it."

    The problem in assuming is that the "fun" for most RPG enthusiasts is actually going through and completing the scenario. Why can't it be just be fun to fight, to plan, to experience rather than have a smug sense of satisfaction doing so?

    If everybody is more content being satisfied than actually having an enjoyable time, something is wrong here.

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  38. I don't know. Why can't the point of the game be the actual process of playing it? For me, it is. For so many other people, the game seems to be a waste of time if they don't get their victory.

    ... and now I'm thinking of the term "smug" and how evil it is that too much satisfaction in something is considered a bad thing. Can't ever be too happy, you see, unless it's, hehe, fleeting fun.

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  39. Wow, your like my dark side. Or my light side...either, doesn't matter to me, it's the contrast I refer to.

    I follow you intellectually, particularly how you penetrate certain subjects most people seem to ricochet off of.

    But then you pull this left turn.

    You really think your not continually having fun during the activity you describe?

    Your problem is not these terrible casual gamers. The problem is that you cannot, perhaps will not, describe the fun your having. Of course they assume their own version of fun, when you stay incredibly tight lipped on how you have fun.

    What is it? Does it destroy engagement with the game to reflect on the idea your having fun? Do you want to deny your having fun at all, cause that's what the masses do?

    Is it because you must continually maintain the moment of exploration, of trying something new, but never having made up you mind about that new thing?

    I doubt it's a lack of penetrative thought, your not lacking there. There has to be a reason your holding off from saying.

    Sorry for strong questions on the first post, but your ideas on critique...I follow similar ones. So thems the questions I ask. None of them are a stab either - each question refers to a viable structure I can think of.

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  40. >>Sorry for strong questions on the first post

    Not a problem. I love this kind of stuff. It's why I write the way I do...

    >>You really think your not continually having fun during the activity you describe?

    It's just positioning the definition of terms in a convenient way to distinguish my "fun," which is the kind I enjoy, from this other "fun," which I don't enjoy and kind of depresses me.

    My enjoyment comes from the creation and seeing events unfold. When I was a kid, I'd set up all the Star Wars guys, or GI Joe guys, or Transformers (and I had TONS of each), think of what today's plot is going to be... (and for the GI Joes and Transformers, I'd "run the characters" according to the info cards that came with them) and then wish at that point I could just animate them so I could see what happens, without knowing.

    It's why my attempts to write fiction always fail, I think. As a writer, you have to know the ending, and work towards it. Well, if I know the ending... then writing the story just seems pointless. Who cares? I killed my enjoyment of several computer games in the 80s because I got the cluebook... and found out how it ended... OK, then no need to play it then!

    So the process of play is to discover what happens. It's the point of playing! So I don't want anything in my role-playing games that gives any sort of assumption as to what the conclusion will be. Current games and current gamers seem to want to assume that the point of the game is so the players can win. Failure *has* to be an option or there's no reason to play... just narrate the conclusion.

    My job as referee is to set the situation up, come up with some "if they do this, what happens then?" in advance, and then sit back and watch events unfold, dispassionately, so I can discover what happens. If I stack the deck one way or the other, then I don't get what I want out of gaming.

    ... plus, I do this weird thing when I'm interested in something. I explore the history and traditions and such as best I can, and am skeptical of changes. Other people tend not to do that with their interests... because they're not interested. It isn't relevant to their current enjoyment. I see it as them not being interested in their interests.

    Put those two things together, and I come up with "I Hate Fun," the colossal internet essay.

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  41. Yeah, I forgot to explain my dark/light side comment. I hate fun...that's purely for the sake of having fun. I love fun that also grants me something in the real world - like sharpening my skills/knowledge or giving me a grander understanding of human relations.

    "So the process of play is to discover what happens. It's the point of playing! So I don't want anything in my role-playing games that gives any sort of assumption as to what the conclusion will be. Current games and current gamers seem to want to assume that the point of the game is so the players can win. Failure *has* to be an option or there's no reason to play... just narrate the conclusion."
    But your not about to fail and the outcome of the game is predictable - the outcome is that there was alot of the repeating fun of exploration/seeing the process of play. Whether the characters win or lose is just one minute detail - one of the many details you enjoy observing as they come to light.

    Once you look at it like that, failure doesn't have to be an option. The conclusion might not be at all about anything like suceeding or not. For example, you might explore a ball held by the king, and how all the nobles mix and dance and the rich fabrics from exotic locations in the world they wear crafted by the most specialised tailors.

    Indeed, to insist failure is an option is to force part of how things turn out, when failure might not be part of the situation at all.

    I'll make some guesstimates that might be applicable/useful here.

    Basically the act of exploration/observing the process of play might actually involve finding out if winning or losing was part of the events at all.

    These casual players assume there is winning (so they can 'win'). I think you don't want to take the opposite side, where you insist failure must be an option. I think it would better to go transcendent, and to show that you enjoy discovering what happens - and just one small part of that, not any more important than other parts, is discovering if winning or losing is actually part of how it ends or if there is no winning or losing at all involved in how it turned out. Your sort of above it all, since whether winning/losing is there, it's just a detail. That's how you can put it to the casual 'I always wanna win' crowd. In your play, whether winning is there or not, is just another detail to you amongst all the rest you enjoy discovering. This way you underline what is the big fun thing, the exploration, and show how winning or losing is not the big fun thing, but merely one small part of the big fun thing, like so many other details are. Sound useful in asserting your way of play against this competing cultures?


    However, if you do insist on putting in a win/lose condition, perhaps your gamist and should realise that the meaning of winning/losing doesn't come from an accurately portrayed world, it comes from peers cheering you on. Hopefully this paragraph doesn't apply, because then things are simpler to talk about and the above paragraphs have more of a chance of being directly useful.

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  42. I'm having a bit of trouble deciding if I understand what you're saying... but here we go... :)

    >>But your not about to fail and the outcome of the game is predictable - the outcome is that there was alot of the repeating fun of exploration/seeing the process of play. Whether the characters win or lose is just one minute detail - one of the many details you enjoy observing as they come to light.

    Even if we're talking in meta-game "Do we real people succeed in getting a positive experience out of the game" versus "Do our characters succeed in their goals," the outcome of the game isn't predictable. If I want to discover what happens, and not drive the game in any specific direction, there is no guarantee that I will enjoy the outcome.

    Which goes back to the same thing about having failure as an option in the in-game activities... if there is no possibility of failure, then success really doesn't mean as much.

    >>Once you look at it like that, failure doesn't have to be an option. The conclusion might not be at all about anything like suceeding or not. For example, you might explore a ball held by the king, and how all the nobles mix and dance and the rich fabrics from exotic locations in the world they wear crafted by the most specialised tailors.

    But I am running mainly an adventure game... whether that adventure is more low-key like solving a murder mystery or more standard as exploring some ancient shrine and encountering undead... when it comes to "mundane" things like, say, a noble's ball... I generally leave the details out. "The upper crust of society is here, lavishly dressed and dancing in sophisticated ways that the common folk have never imagined, let alone seen..." is the kind of detail I strive for (but often fail at, because often a situation like this isn't planned, it just happens, and my thinking on the fly of course is less effective than if I have time to compose a description). The idea is to let the players imagine for themselves what these things actually look like.

    >>Indeed, to insist failure is an option is to force part of how things turn out, when failure might not be part of the situation at all.

    In the ideal situation, characters/players want something. As referee I need to decide what kind of hoops they have to go through to get it. "The hand of the cooper's daughter," "a holy avenger," "enough gold to ransom Prince Toodledoo," "a cleric willing to cast remove curse," "clear out this dungeon," "get fifteen different kinds of rabbit ears for my collection..." Whatever. If there's nothing they want to do (even if it's "complete the mission given by some NPC") then there's no game.

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  43. "If [b]I want to discover what happens[/b], and not drive the game in any specific direction, there is no guarantee that I will enjoy the outcome."
    This is what I'm getting at - you want to discover what happens. You want it for some reason - it's valuable to you somehow. And barring the session having to end early, you will get this valuable thing. Avoid the distraction of not enjoying the outcome, and consider whether/how much you enjoy that you got to see the outcome at all. No one likes the end of Romeo and Juliet - that doesn't mean they don't enjoy getting to see the outcome.

    I'm suggesting this because it helps define the game to people who might assume it's casual fun or nothing. If it seems to make sense, it'd be useful for that I think.

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  44. I'll be a little contraversial.

    You know those people who do stuff without questioning why they do it/without naming the reason? The ones that bug you?

    Right now, this appears to be what your doing. You will talk about how you might not like the outcome, but you skip questioning what the reason is for you to head toward that outcome in the first place.

    Saying that out of the cause and effect, the effect isn't necessarily fun for you, is just changing the subject. I'm talking about the cause and why you pursue it - I don't care about the effects. Effects are an unrelated, unimportant side subject. Cease telling me how they aren't fun for you and tell me why you pursue the cause?

    I'm cutting to the chase, but with the intention that there might be some practical benefit for both of us in doing so.

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  45. People that aren't Neckbeard Shutins, in MY D&D?

    RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE.

    You might be right, D&D isn't simulationist. However, it really never was to begin with. There's much better simulationist games. Go play that. Sure, D&D has evolved (Yes, evolved) into a system that's more and more pure Gamist.

    And, hell, if that results in more fun? Awesome.

    You can still involve loss in D&D. But, hey, duh, IT'S A GAME. If one person is being shit on and one person is being shined on? Guess who's having the most fun. So, you make loss something that isn't arbitrary. You make loss more like it is in life. You turn loss into character goals.

    And, as for your being an elitest douchebag, you're an elitest douchebag. Being elitest *is* a bad thing, no matter how much you say otherwise. It's being condescending, which has a bad connotation for a reason.

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  46. >You might be right, D&D isn't simulationist. However, it really never was to begin with. There's much better simulationist games. Go play that. Sure, D&D has evolved (Yes, evolved) into a system that's more and more pure Gamist.

    One... Using Forgespeak pretty much disqualifies you from bitching about elitism.

    >You can still involve loss in D&D. But, hey, duh, IT'S A GAME. If one person is being shit on and one person is being shined on? Guess who's having the most fun.

    Two... then play better. If it's a matter of being shit on or shined on, that's a shitty referee. The idea is that a better player will have better results.

    There was one kid in high school that kicked my ass all day, every in chess when we played. I still came back, because that was the guy to play against if I wanted to get better at chess.

    >So, you make loss something that isn't arbitrary. You make loss more like it is in life. You turn loss into character goals.

    I don't play diceless, so there will be arbitrariness in my games. And I don't *make* loss anything. It is what it is at the time it happens.

    Characters in D&D (and I'll go ahead and say in all RPGs) become cool because they have done cool things and have had cool adventures... not because of the creative (or mathematical, depending on the system) investment you've put into the character before play ever begins.

    No character is cool before play begins, and a good number of characters will never be cool.

    I wonder if "Let me tell you about my character," is more fun with people that don't even name their guys until they've leveled up once or twice.

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  47. Amen, brother, amen!! I've just discovered your little blog here and been enjoying the posts so far, and this one takes the cake ;) I hate fun too. I would go as far and say that people are getting too intelligent (like you wrote, understanding that they're just wasting time), when in reality, we are already as dumb as *ucks. I guess when you look at it all from a certain angle, it's very entertaining. I'm suppose to start running a game for this group I've been with for about 3 years now, and your posts have felt inspiring, especially the one about writing adventures. Thank you very much. What I didn't gather yet was that are you residing in Vaasa or Helsinki? Take care.

    Petteri (morro.riz(at)gmail.com)

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  48. I lived in Vaasa for two and a half years, but I'm in Helsinki now.

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  49. I need to rant on this for a minute. I agree with the point about encouraging others to stop living stagnant lives. The part I think you aren't seeing is that some people who enjoy the game have responsibilities that doesn't allow so much time to be dedicated solely to playing the game the way it was "meant to be played". Sometimes you just want to pass the time because work sucks, life's hard and for some people role playing is their "mcdonalds and chocolate". So if them wanting to enjoy role playing for fun means you have to declare war well fuck that man! That's bullshit fanaticism. Can't grasp the idea of live and let live? Work on it and respect that some people just can't live the od&d way.

    You have some excellent posts on your blog, and this post is mostly good up until you declare war.

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  50. I'm not going to go into your long "you're having fun in the wrong way!" rant and I'm not going to point out that the 'state of the gaming industry' only affects your game as much as you let it (oh wait...).

    I'm only going to point out that "evolution" simply means "gradual change". The "by the process of natural selection" is not implied in the word. In fact, when you say "evolution" in the biological sense you're really using it as a shorthand for "evolution through natural selection". This shorthand is now so familiar that it is accepted to mean the same thing, but this does not change the meaning of the word in other contexts.
    That's all.

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  51. You're complaining about fun being fun.

    RPGs are supposed to be fun.

    Are you FUCKING STUPID?

    If you aren't having fun while doing something to entertain, to have fun with, a hobby, then you're doing it wrong. Jesus Christ, I feel like I'm explaining this to a retarded person, except even retards can understand this.

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  52. Someone didn't understand the article...

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  53. I'm faintly amused at this article

    A few pointers: an archetype is a sub-category of a trope. Thus, you were being both repetitive and self-contradicting in one of those paragraphs up above.

    Fantasy tropes in general are based on classic archetypes, anyways.

    I am so terribly sorry if I don't get an Errol reference - if you think the audience is not going to get a reference, there's really no need to be so condescending. But then again, I don't think you were particularly aiming at any audience except to your own group....

    And... to sum up my view on it, your argument is dangerously close in logic to that of a religious bigot. Granted, you did hit on some really good points: modern conveniences do tend to hamper rather than facilitate, and yes, it's good to encourage to get up and live rather than stagnate. However, I have to say, D&D is a... game.... Much like chess is a game, and so is checkers, Final Fantasy, Monopoly, etc. Some people play it for fun, some play it seriously. It's like with religion: everyone interprets their own answers. Which is fine, until someone comes around with their own arbitrary rules and stakes them into the ground, proclaiming to an arbitrary public that this is how it should be. Which is fine, until that arbitrary public starts harassing the real public - the rest of us. If you really want an atmosphere that caters to your own intellectual rigor, it's not really necessary to bash those who are in it for fun. Really. There are other ways.

    Yes, I came from TV tropes. I saw your comment above. Don't worry: it wasn't all for naught. I laughed.

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  54. "D&D is a game."

    Not entirely. D&D is a game in the technical sense that its got rules within which you make a series of interesting choices. But it's also a creative endeavor, and like any creative endeavor, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

    Sure, you can pick up some pregens, buy some beer and pretzels, and plow through Keep on the Shadowfell for a few hours. It's fun, maybe, but when it's over and done, the experience is mostly gone and you didn't take much away from it other than a few experience points on a character you didn't make yourself and maybe a "Man, that was a good time." Assuming, of course, that the module didn't suck.

    But you could also be building your own characters. Building your own worlds. Writing your own adventures. Doing some research and becoming an expert on out-of-print fantasy literature, military history, Egyptology, zoology, castle architecture, Three-Kingdoms China, pirate ships, or voodoo folklore. You could be writing up valuable contributions to the general body of work and sharing them with other people.

    Scoff at elitism all you like, but sorry, guy: if that second gamer, with street cred from all his hard work and contributions presents his opinion on gaming? It *is* more valuable than that first guy's. They call it an educated opinion. It's not the frame of mind of religious bigots: It's the frame of mind of experts, master tradesmen, scholars and scientists. Mr. Raggi's post isn't railing against enjoying gaming - obviously we all do that. His anger is directed at living mindlessly and not getting anything lasting from it.

    I should probably also point out, liyosa, that making a post on a blog mostly frequented by old-schoolers and infamous for inflammatory statements is hardly a case of "harrassing the real public". And, incidentally? The "real public" includes us every inch as much as it includes you. Nice retaliation, though: coming over here from TVTropes and posting semantic arguments was a triumph of the human spirit, and may change the way I view life forever.

    In any case, the original post wasn't directed at you. Bluntly, if you want a nice easy beer and pretzels game, whatever. You are free to do what you like, and no one cares enough to try and stop you. The post is directed at those of us who DO want something more substantial from our hobby.

    It's a challenge.

    It's a challenge to stop whining about how you guys have ruined the hobby since you took charge.

    It's a challenge to stop letting a gigantic toy corporation that doesn't actually care about D&D shape our hobby.

    It's a challenge that we get off our asses and GAME and LEARN and CREATE and PUBLISH, and reclaim something this is valuable to us.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I think I might finally get around to writing that article for Fight On!

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  55. A note:

    If you say something like "Well, I'm not going to waste my time coming back to read whatever hateful reply you've posted," then your comment isn't sticking around.

    A second note:

    If you take the title of this post literally, you're a fucking moron.

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  56. Interesting read. What do you think of the "indie" game scene, with games like Burning Wheel, or Dogs in the Vineyard, or Sorcerer? Games that demand a certain level of real-world effort and are most enjoyable when not playing for transitory "fun," but for emotional punch or close-to-real experience of life? Your rant about character death reminds me a lot of the very present possibility Mortal Wounds in BW. One wrong move, and your character will quickly bleed out.

    Just a thought. I'm not sure I agree with your sentiments here, but they are quite thought-provoking. I have found myself on many occasions wishing my semi-regular playgroup were less "beer and pretzels." Someday, I think.

    Noah

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  57. I thought Burning Wheel was full of great ideas but ultimately more complicated a system than I wanted to play.

    Sorcerer is something I'd like to play, but not run... but playing in someone else's game overseas is difficult. When I run a game, I can dictate what language it's in. :)

    I own Dogs in the Vineyard and have run it a few times. I love the idea, and to me the game comes alive when the players really disagree about a course of action and start having conflicts among themselves. :)

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  58. There is a favorite children's book of mine entitled "How to Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days." A young man named Milo, IIRC, has a similarly profound revelation about the purpose of life, and discovered a like-minded group of perfectionists. Their "secret" to perfection proves to be sitting around in an auditorium eating cucumber sandwiches and sipping weak tea slowly. That is precisely the impression your post, with all its charming adolescent purism, has left me with. Have a nice day.

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  59. Reading this post a year later. I still hate it. I get it, but the point is so overblown and long winded it's fucking exhausting. It reads like the rantings and ravings of some brainwashing lunatic trying to argue some poor impressionable newb into submission.

    You should write another post like this and call it: Fuck balance, fuck handouts, and fuck you.

    That'd be a good title.

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  60. Reading these thoughts brings to mind not so much D&D playing as my other preferred recreation - chess.

    When I was about 16 I got bitten by the chess bug. I had known how to play chess for years, but it suddenly became something that I considered worthy of serious attention, and I started spending all my free time and money on the game. I was buying books and studying them late into the night, I joined clubs and entered tournament, and played as often as I could.

    "Playing chess" doesn't seem like the right word for what I was doing. Internally, "playing" felt harrowing, brutally stressful and even humiliating (not helped by the fact that, as a late starter, I was never very good). I would leave the board physically drained, sometimes feeling ill; I recall at the end of one rapid game my hands were shaking so hard I could hardly move the pieces and I was on the verge of tears, and that after I won the game.

    You could hardly call what I was doing "having fun", certainly not in the sense that a ride at Disneyland is fun. But this was a crucial outlet for me, and I lived for those "aha" moments where suddenly I understood what was happening on the board, the times when you could say to yourself "that is just beautiful". And I dare say I treasured the feeling of elitism, that those insights weren't shared by just anyone, and that I was a little special and different amongst the people I knew.

    If I wanted fun, I could have had fun a hundred different ways. But there was something else that I wanted, and chess could give it to me where watching TV could not.

    Now, were James and I talking, he might say to me: Imagine FIDE were to declare "Chess needs to reach a wider audience, so we are changing the rules of the game. In Chess 4e, your success is almost guaranteed: your attacks will all be winning, your defence impeccable; your sacrifices will all be brilliant, and all your pawns will promote."

    Perhaps this new game will be a hit, and millions more people will now be playing chess and saying "wow, chess is so much fun" as they sacrifice yet another queen. But what about the minority of people who might have fallen for chess the way I did? They will lose the chance to get that certain something out of the game.

    Working hard at chess isn't for everyone, but to the people that it is "for" it matters very deeply. Likewise in many other recreational pursuits: sport, painting, gardening, hiking, woodworking, music. It's common to hear people who take these activities seriously lamenting the impact that commercial pressures bring: the place that sold rare dahlias now just has water features and garden furniture, the sheet music shop stocks nothing but Easy Beatles Favourites.

    Perhaps the influence of the mass market can't be helped, perhaps it is inevitable. But that doesn't mean that it's something to be passively accepted, and we should still comment on what is lost.

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  61. So many people making such baseless statements about a system(4E) they know little about. The rules of the edition don't mean shit compared to the attitude and style you bring to the game.

    I started with 2nd edition and I took great joy in killing my PCs. With the switch to 3rd I didn't suddenly turn all my games into Diablo clones or Animes, I kept on playing like I did before, but with a different ruleset. When 4E came out, I didn't suddenly change my DMing style to be like MMOs, I played like I did before and like I will continue to do long into the future.

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  62. Every time I've read this blog post it has fired me up and gotten me moving.
    Thanks for writing it!

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  63. I really find it hilarious how you don't seem to realize that you come off as a pretentious douchebag who things your way is superior to everyone else's so they should fuck off and kill themselves.

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  64. Also as a note. That makes you EXACTLY what you've been railing against. Good job.

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  65. Thank you for writing this refreshing bit of sanity, this point of light in the creeping darkness of the asshattery of the Internet.

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  66. Quote; Reks
    You're complaining about fun being fun.

    RPGs are supposed to be fun.

    Are you FUCKING STUPID?

    If you aren't having fun while doing something to entertain, to have fun with, a hobby, then you're doing it wrong. Jesus Christ, I feel like I'm explaining this to a retarded person, except even retards can understand this.


    Reks, As the father of a retarded daughter, I take enormous exception to your flame. 'Retarded' is a clinical condition, not a derogatory slander. I would have hope better of a fellow gamer.

    You go Jim. You keep voicing your mind. After all it, it is your blog, isn't it. I wish I was so eloquent with my opinions.

    Kramer
    The Usherwood Adventures

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  67. Thesis: You will be more emotionally invested in your accomplishments in elfgames if you have to play your character like an obsessive-compulsive paranoid because vague-but-blunt rules that can kill any character for no reason

    Premise: It is a good thing to base much of your self-worth on your accomplishments in elfgames

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  68. HAHAHA!! I wonder if this shitsucker got molested while playing his faggy elfgames, thus coming to the conclusion that he didn't enjoy them and no one else should either.

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  69. I agree with most of what you've said here, though you tread in a lot of difficult territory. Even though you take real pains to say something more complex than "casual gamers go home," that's what a lot of folks will take from this.

    Ironically.

    Also ironic: Tolkien as the core. Grand quests. Heroics. is a phrase I guess JRRT wouldn't recognise at all. Frodo's whole story is about how crap grand quests are, how heroes aren't heroic, how anyone would rather be doing anything else than this right here, dying on the side of Mount Doom. From the hobbits' perspective, and Strider's, and pretty much everyone's, conspicuous heroism = early inglorious death. Boromir's function is pretty much to prove this point. But I know exactly what you mean in RPG products, so yeah.

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